How to Support a Friend with Breast Cancer

(Photo: iStock)

When someone you love is diagnosed with breast cancer or is in the midst of treatment, it’s not only scary for them, but it’s really scary for you too. Many of us are faced with the difficulty of not knowing what to say or do, but it doesn’t have to be challenging or grim.

Researchers at the American Cancer Society discovered those with breast cancer were able to better adjust to the changes cancer brought on with a more positive outlook thanks to the strong emotional support system of their friends. Because we’re all about friendship and familial vibes here, we have some ways how to be the best friend you can be as you support a fellow Womanista battling breast cancer.

Keep in touch

One of the best things you can do as a friend is to keep those lines of communication open at all costs. While telephone calls can take up energy and be intrusive if she’s in the hospital, letting her know you’re thinking of her through care packages, letters, cards or scrapbooking pictures and moments she’s missing out on with encouraging notes can warm her smile.

Offer to help

While it’s important to determine what’s most fitting on a case-by-case basis, psychotherapist, Dr. Robi Ludwig suggests friends offer pragmatic support like buying groceries, making dinner, helping the children with their needs (and making it as normal for them), or even cleaning up around the house and doing laundry. Even though these sound like small things, they are powerful in easing the anxiety of someone in treatment.

Create distractions

The gift of distraction from treatment is one of the best ways to help your friend get her mind off cancer as it can often leave an individual feeling socially and physically isolated. When this happens, include fun into the mix by planning a crafts night, a chick-flick movie marathon, a spa day, a comedy club date (laughter really is the best medicine), a mini road-trip—just anything where they can be themselves, have a great time and forget what’s really ailing them. Keep it all as normal as possible, and don’t plan too far ahead in case she’s not up to it last minute.

Be her strongest advocate

Cancer can be lonely, and as author and motivational speaker, Sarah LaBarge best puts it, “Show up. And then show up again. And then show up again.” It’s vital to be her biggest supporter at this time. She will be making decisions that are best for her and her family, even if it is not in your best interests. There are days when she will feel weak and not up to fighting back, but that is when you need to be fierce and assertive, and help her when she isn’t able to push herself or back her decisions.

Be patient

Whether newly diagnosed or in treatment, having patience for your friend is a true virtue and one of the most important things you can do for her. Cancer comes with a sea of emotions, thoughts and anxiety, and sometimes she will need her own space away from you to process everything. Give her that time and take it day-by-day, making sure not to rush her for anything. Sticking by her through it means a lot, and when she’ll need you, she won’t forget you staying behind to fight it out. As the Susan G. Komen foundation states, “Sometimes being there and listening is all that matters.”

(Photo: iStock)

While there are many things we can do to help, we also need to be mindful of the situation. When supporting your friend with breast cancer, do your best to:

  • Avoid comparisons and telling her stories of others because every case is different
  • Never tell her how to feel or look to the bright side, because she’ll see it for herself
  • Avoid offering medical advice at all costs
  • Don’t take it personally when she’s not being courteous or friendly
  • Never feel afraid to cry in front of her because chances are, she understands you more than you think
  • Never give up on the friendship

For more information on how you can support your friend, visit Susan G. Komen, and online support groups, Bright Pink and Young Survival.

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