Women's Health

5 Ways to Support a Loved One Who Has Breast Cancer

You just received a shocking phone call; a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now you’re wondering: How can I help?

Tina German, RN, CBPN-IC, a certified breast patient navigator at TriHealth, explains the best ways to show support for a family member or friend who is going through a breast cancer diagnosis.

Tip #1: Listen

After someone has been diagnosed with cancer, especially during the first few days, they’ll likely be overflowing with emotions. “They may just want people to let them cry, let them say, ‘I’m scared,’ and someone to empathize with them,” Tina explains. "They just want to know they're not alone."

In her role at the Mary Jo Cropper Family Center for Breast Care, Tina tells her patients to see her as an “angel” on the other end of the phone. “In the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep, because you know you have to ask me something in the morning, just put it on my voicemail,” she explains.

Tip #2: Don’t Ask, Just Do

Don't wait for your loved one to ask for help. Instead, offer to do something, and be specific. Whether you're preparing a meal or coming to his or her home to do housework, you're loved one will be thankful.

Tip #3: Be a Quiet Observer

Being a quiet observer is particularly important when a loved one recently had surgery. “For a post-op patient, they don’t need to be entertaining their guests,” Tina points out.

Visitors are appreciated, but in some cases, a card, flowers, or simple text will help send the message that you are thinking of the individual, but still give them time to rest, nap and recuperate.

Tip #4: Be a Wingman

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, suddenly his or her schedule is booked with medical appointments. Accompanying your loved one to doctor’s appointments or chemotherapy sessions can help put him or her at ease throughout this mentally and physically draining time period.

Tip #5: Don’t Compare

Each breast cancer diagnosis is its own unique case, so Tina says to avoid offering advice about how someone else dealt with his or her diagnosis or treatment. “You need to be non-judgmental,” she says. “Don’t give comparative advice.”

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