Supporting a friend through breast cancer can be difficult. You may be unsure how much your friend wants to tell you or how much your friend would like you to be involved.
Make sure you remain in close contact with your friend - she may be too tired, sick or worried to make contact with you. Don't take this as a sign she does not need or value your help or friendship.
Make sure you continually offer to be there for her and let her decide which of your offers of help or support she feels inclined to take advantage of. Remember, breast cancer treatment can often be a lonely and isolating time for women and friendships of all kinds are important.
If you have children, how much you tell them will depend on how old they are. Give them age-appropriate information and make sure you are always honest with them. Do not try to hide things from them.
Do keep an eye on your children/teenagers. This is a difficult time for them as well and they can react in different ways. They may feel angry, lonely, scared or left out. Seek help for them from a counsellor if you think they need it.
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If you’re a lesbian couple, your experience of the breast cancer journey may be different from a heterosexual couple. Some say it can be difficult “coming out” to medical professionals or that support groups do not work as well for them.
Make sure you and your partner find a medical professional you trust, whom you are able to communicate with clearly and effectively and who understands your personal situation.
You may like to make contact with the Mamazon Club – a lesbian breast cancer support network to help you through your breast cancer experience. Please email email@example.com for more information.
Many men feel they have to be the "strong one" when their wife or partner is diagnosed with breast cancer. You may feel unable to express your own emotions, worries or anxieties about your partner's illness.
It is normal to be on your own "emotional rollercoaster" when your wife is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. You need your own support network and your own outlet for your emotions so that you can offer effective support to your wife or partner as she goes through this journey.
Make sure you have a friend or relative you can talk to and if you don't have someone you feel comfortable confiding in, then think about getting professional help.
A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is not a journey that is made alone. The woman diagnosed takes her husband, partner, children, parents, siblings and friends with her.
If you’re supporting a woman through breast cancer, there may be times when you don’t know what to say; when you feel too wrapped up in your own emotions; and when you don’t know what kind of help to offer.
It's okay to have your own emotions and it's best to be honest with the woman you're supporting and to let her know that you're finding it difficult dealing with things at the moment.
Generally, women undergoing chemotherapy will find they start to suffer hair loss after the second treatment.
You may find you wake up with hair over your pillow or you start to notice hair falling out in the shower or on your clothes. Many women find the loss of hair to be a difficult experience. It is a very obvious sign of cancer and the fact you are undergoing treatment.
A wig can be a good option to help restore confidence and self-esteem. But there are also many attractive hats and scarves available and many women like to wear a hat to bed because they find their head can get cold.
Undergoing medical treatment for breast cancer brings with it a range of stresses and the last thing you need to be worrying about is how you are going to pay your bills.
Treatment may put you under financial strain, either because you choose to pay for some treatment options or because you are not working during treatment. If you meet the criteria, you can access financial help through Work and Income New Zealand.
Emotionally, breast cancer, can be a tough time. In the early stages you may be focusing on the physical aspects of the disease, but you are also likely to be on an “emotional rollercoaster”.
Make sure you rely on your loved ones to help get you through these trying times. However, your friends and family are also likely to be on their own “emotional rollercoaster” so some women prefer to talk to others who have had breast cancer, to a counsellor or psychologist.
Often the emotional effects of a breast cancer diagnosis can last far longer than the physical ones and many women find they have a different attitude to life after breast cancer. In many cases, this can be a very positive thing.
You might like to try these tips on coping emotionally:
If you decide to delay reconstructive surgery, or not have it at all, then you might want to look at how you can create the appearance of a natural breast by using a prosthesis (for mastectomy) or breast form (for lumpectomy).
After surgery and before discharge from hospital, your breast nurse will talk to you about whether wearing a prosthesis may be appropriate for you. If you decide it is, she will provide you with a temporary soft prosthesis which can be used while the surgical area is healing. After healing (most likely five to six weeks post op), you may wish to obtain a permanent breast prosthesis.