When a Loved One is Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be a tragic and gut-wrenching experience.
Both the individual diagnosed with breast cancer and his or her support system will feel as though their world has been turned upside down. Feelings of sadness, grief, confusion and anger are all common when it comes to a breast cancer diagnosis. Those feelings should not be discounted or pushed to the side. It is important that you acknowledge your feelings and learn how to react to them in a positive light.
As the support system of someone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is imperative that you know how to be there for them during this time of uncertainty and change. Being there for them can range from physically being able to be with them during their times of need, or it can simply mean emotionally and spiritually being there for them when they need it the most.
How To Be There for a Loved one With Breast Cancer
There are several ways you can be there for your loved one that has been diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer.
The most important way you can be there for them is to understand their diagnosis and know what they will need in the future. Understanding a breast ultrasound can allow you to fully comprehend the situation and the risk factors. While medical professionals may not be able to release certain information to you, complying with HIPAA, you can ask them for the basic information you need to understand their diagnosis. This can also allow you to go through the natural cycle of feelings that you will experience when you first learn about a breast cancer diagnosis. It is important to embrace these feelings, acknowledge them and redirect them in a positive way.
After you have come to grips with the reality of the situation, it is important to be there for your loved one. If you are physically able to be there for him or her, dropping by to just say hi may be the perfect way to show them that you are thinking of them and there for them. If he or she would like company, try to talk about or do things that do not have to do with their recent diagnosis. They most likely have been talking about and thinking about breast cancer radiation therapy, so getting their mind off the topic may be just the thing they need. Try playing board games, looking at old photographs or watching a movie he or she will enjoy. Being there for your loved one during this time does not have to be exclusive to just speaking about breast cancer. Sometimes all your loved one will need is just a friend to treat them as they would if they did not have cancer.
If your loved one has recently undergone a mastectomy, it is important to remember that he or she is likely in a lot of physical and emotional pain. Being there for them will vary depending on your loved one’s situation and condition. During the post-mastectomy recovery period, everyone will recover at a different pace and will have different needs as they recuperate. If you are unsure of whether your loved one is up for visitors, phone calls or video chats, it is important to ask the person that may be closest to them during this time. If they are up for visits or calls, try to keep them brief and light hearted. They will also likely be in a lot of pain, so it is important to go into the visit understanding that their mood may not be normal. Preparing yourself before hand can help you get in the right mindset to make the visit as smooth as possible. During your visit, feel free to bring the family things that may make their life a little easier during a hectic time, such as prepped meals or new magazines or books to keep them busy. Other items that the family and your loved one may appreciate are loose tops that will not aggravate the surgical site and comfortable blankets during their times of lounging.
If your loved one is not feeling up for visitors or having social visits, remember that it is a hectic and trying time for them. Knowing that you are unable to see your loved one can be hurtful and upsetting, but it is imperative to remember that they are healing and the best way you can help them heal is by giving them the space they ask for. In the meantime, you can still be there for them in different ways! Sending them a handwritten note or card will let them know that you are thinking of them and have them in your thoughts or prayers. You can also send flowers, get well soon baskets or stuffed animals to cheer them up!
Remember that your loved one may be feeling very sensitive during this time. Whether it is a woman who just lost her breasts due to a mastectomy or a man that is experiencing breast cancer for the first time, emotions will be running high. It is imperative to remember that they will be feeling all the same feelings that you did, but they may be more extreme or intense. Keep that in mind when you seek to comfort your friend in whichever way that you choose to.
Ultimately, being diagnosed with breast cancer cells is a life altering experience.
Being there for them may seem challenging and difficult at first, but it is important to remember that they are still the same person that they were before the diagnosis and your bond will not change.