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How to Support a Friend With Breast Cancer

Stronger Together: Ways To Support a Friend With Breast Cancer

In the Unites States, 1 out of every 8 women develop breast cancer. Despite the commonality of the disease, those diagnosed with breast cancer often feel alone and scared after receiving the news. If someone you know is battling breast cancer, you probably want to help but are unsure how to go about it. It is common and natural to feel this way, but don't let uncomfortable feelings keep you away. Your friend needs you now more than ever, and there are lots of ways you can help.

Get Things Done

Life doesn't stop during cancer treatment, which means those fighting the disease often have long to-do lists they just can't tackle. Having someone take care of these errands greatly reduces worry and stress. If you're not sure where to start, ask your friend or their primary caregiver what you can help with. Those battling cancer may need someone to:

  • Cook meals
  • Clean the house
  • Do laundry
  • Pickup prescriptions
  • Mow the lawn
  • Provide childcare or pet care
  • Go grocery shopping
  • Drive the kids to their activities

Visit Often

Because they are not sure what to do for a friend with breast cancer, some people do nothing. Unfortunately, this can lead to isolation and loneliness for those undergoing cancer treatment. You can help combat this with regular visits. These visits should be kept short as treatment may leave your friend tired or feeling ill. Always call before your visit to make sure it's a good day for company. If your friend prefers long visits to short ones, make sure you bring a book or a small project to work on in case she nods off or naps while you're there.

Offer to Go Along

Trips to the doctor or oncologist can be overwhelming for those with breast cancer. During a visit, massive amounts of vital health and treatment information are sometimes relayed. Two heads are better than one when it comes to understanding and retaining important information about breast cancer prognostics and treatment options. You can help at these appointments by remembering what the doctor says and helping your friend come up with questions. When asked what the most helpful thing her friend did for her during her cancer treatment, survivor Florence Tweel answered that it was taking notes for her at the doctor so she could assimilate the information in her own time and at her own pace.

Her Cancer, Her Way

Concentrate on listening and let you friend deal with her breast cancer in her own way. It's fine if you don't know what to say and you can be honest about feeling a little unsure. It is better to admit that you're at a loss for words than to try and fill space with the wrong ones. No one battling breast cancer wants to hear about how it was when your great aunt had it or talk about your recent flawless mammogram. Instead, try to focus on normal activities. Play cards, watch your favorite TV shows together, or paint your nails. These activities bring a sense of normalcy to life. Be aware, too, that your friend will have good and bad days. If she needs to cry, yell or vent, let her do so. On quiet or angry days just sit quietly and listen rather than trying to fix things.

Support Research

One way to advocate for your friend and everyone diagnosed with breast cancer is to help support research funding. Make a donation to a breast cancer foundation if you can. You can also participate in breast cancer awareness marches or buy items from the Susan G. Komen organization, where 50 to 80 percent of every purchase goes back into the foundation. You could also have a hair cutting party with food, fun and lots of hair donations to a cancer support charity.

The most important thing to remember when supporting a friend with breast cancer is simply to be there. If you're not sure how to help, ask. Try to stay light and upbeat, bringing your friend fun little surprises and pick-me-ups whenever you can. On bad days, be prepared to listen without fixing the problem. Remember that just being visible may be enough.

Profile photo of Georgia Gables

Mother. Survivor.