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.
Below are some tips on supporting a loved one with breast cancer. You might also like to check out our pages for husbands/partners, same sex partners, children and friends.
How to support a woman with breast cancer:
- be there to listen - hear her concerns, anxieties, fears. You don't have to offer a solution, just listen
- be an active participant in treatment - go to appointments with her, take her to radiotherapy and chemotherapy appointments.
- ask questions of medical staff. Discuss with her in advance her concerns and be her advocate with medical professionals.
- help her to relax - encourage her to do things she enjoys. Help her to get some light exercise when she's up to it.
- offer practical help to keep the household running - cook, clean, shop, hang out washing. Do as much as you can to ensure your loved one does not have to worry about these day-to-day tasks. Enlist others to help with these chores as well.
- continue to be supportive throughout the entire breast cancer journey. Once treatment is over and things are looking more positive many people step away, but this can be a time when many women are "hit" by what they have been through and can feel very isolated and alone.
- Enjoy her - she is still your friend, partner, mother, sister, daughter. Breast cancer does not define her. Don't let the cancer "take over" - remember to try and laugh with her, enjoy the things you always did, and talk about the things you know she likes to discuss.
- If you live in a different town, keep in touch via phone and email. Don't drop off the radar simply because you're not living in the same town. Offer support from a distance - organise someone to mow her lawns or give her a massage. Help financially if she needs it.
- Remember to get support for yourself when you are finding things too difficult to cope with. You won't be able to be an effective support person if you're too overwhelmed.