What Can I Do To Help
Whether your friend or family member is newly diagnosed or in the midst of treatment, she’s unlikely to be wowed by vague offers or having to do your thinking for you. She has enough on her mind she has cancer. She may not want that tuna casserole or to hear about what treatment your Aunt Phyllis had either. So how can you help? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. That’s why we turned to survivors for our list of support dos and don’ts. Our patient-generated advice is sorted into three stages
Diagnosis, Surgery & Treatment, and Recoveryidentified by Maureen Broderick, a licensed clinical social worker who has worked with cancer patients and run cancer support groups. Here’s what you need to know.
Relationships With Friends And Family
It’s not always easy to talk about cancer, either for you or your family and friends. You may sense that some people feel awkward around you or avoid you.
Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. However, do not be afraid to tell them that you need some time to yourself if that’s what you need.
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Cancer Support: Tips For Family And Friends
Your family and friends become your inner circle of support during cancer treatment.
Medical expertise is a key part of your cancer treatment. But it wonât be enough. To get through this, youâll also need to build a cancer support team at home with your family and friends.
Having good cancer support at home is crucial. âA cancer diagnosis adds an enormous amount of stress to a personâs life,â says Harold J. Burstein, MD, a staff oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. âBut people who have strong social supports — good friends and family — tend to cope much better.â
Here are some tips from the experts on how to get cancer support from your friends and family.
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Your Friendship Is Enough
You may begin to discount your ideas on how to help or feel like simply being present isnt enough. But more than any task you could carry out on your loved ones behalf, its your love they need the most. Helping your loved one feel supported and strong through her breast cancer journey is everything she needs to succeed.
Learn more about AdventHealths whole-person approach to breast cancer care and support.
Following The Thread: How To Support A Family Member Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
When BCNA arrives at the Gurrie family home in Melbourne, Jane Gurrie and her 19-year-old daughter Bridget are beaten to the door by Monty, the familys sociable cavoodle. When Janes mother-in-law Robyn Gurrie arrives shortly after, she is subject to a similarly excited canine greeting, before stopping the dog from running outside. As Robyn remarks we used to mind kids and now we mind dogs!
Watching the love and warmth between three generations of Gurrie women, its easy to forget the other thread that runs in this pedigree: breast cancer. Twelve years ago Jane was the first to be diagnosed. Bridget, now attending university, was just seven years old and her brother Jack was four.
Robyn, Bridget and Jane Gurrie
Despite their tender years, Jane and her husband always intended to tell the children the truth about her diagnosis. We talked in the car on the way home and said we would be honest with the kids because that was what we have always tried to do.
We had a really great breast care nurse who advised us from the word go to tell the kids, and we bought some books about the topic because doing the bedtime routine with stories at night is often when the questions start to come up.
Robyn and her husband Tim looked after Bridget and Jack while Jane went through treatment.
We really would have struggled without their help, Jane says.
Well, we got Jack a Wii so he was pretty happy, Robyn laughs.
I actually disagree with that, Bridget says.
- be upfront and honest
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Video Call Visit And Include Her In Activities
Make plans to connect with your friend on a video call or visit in-person to cheer your friend up at home to give her something to look forward to. Make sure to check with her first and be respectful of any safety practices she and her family have in place. You may also want to coordinate your visit with her caregiver so he or she can take a break or run errands while youre there.
When youre with your loved one, dont focus the conversations only around cancer. Treat your friend like you did before. Ask for their advice and input. Share news about school, church, work or the neighborhood. Ask about her family, job and what shes been doing outside of breast cancer.
If your friend seems tired, graciously end the visit and let her know youll be back in touch to set up another visit. On the other hand, if your friend feels up to it, offer to take them for a drive, to a movie, the mall, a restaurant, on an errand or anything else she may be up to doing with you or with your usual group of friends.
Shell want to have a normal life as much as possible, so keep inviting her to any events or activities you ordinarily go to together.
If Treatment Doesnt Help
If treatment does not help your sibling or parent, you and your family will face even more challenges. You may feel many of the same emotions you felt when you first learned that your family member had cancer.
When the future is uncertain, teens say that it helps to:
- Make the most of the time you have. Do special things as a family. Call and visit as much as you can if they are in the hospital. Write notes and draw pictures. If possible, have some special times together. Let your family member know how much you love them.
- Stay on track. When people get bad news, they often feel like they are living outside of themselvesthat life is moving along without them. Keep a schedule and stay involved in things that matter to you.
- Have hope. Never stop believing in tomorrow. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There is more good than bad in this world, even though you might not feel that way right now.
- Get help when you feel alone. Make sure you find people who can help you. In addition to your family, it may help to talk to a social worker, counselor, or people in a support group. It’s important to get your feelings out.
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How To Cope With Cancer As A Family
This article was co-authored by Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP. Dr. Ran D. Anbar is a pediatric medical counselor and is board certified in both pediatric pulmonology and general pediatrics, offering clinical hypnosis and counseling services at Center Point Medicine in La Jolla, California and Syracuse, New York. With over 30 years of medical training and practice, Dr. Anbar has also served as a professor of pediatrics and medicine and the Director of pediatric pulmonology at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Dr. Anbar holds a BS in Biology and Psychology from the University of California, San Diego and an MD from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Dr. Anbar completed his pediatric residency and pediatric pulmonary fellowship training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and is also a past President, fellow and approved consultant of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 13,155 times.
Let Them Know Youre Available Anytime
Many cancer patients dont want to bother anybody. As much as possible, they dont want to inconvenience even their partner if they need help. So, one way you can offer them emotional or even practical support is to assure them that they can call on you anytime.
Aside from the physical discomforts they may feel because of the disease or therapy, cancer patients also often feel depressed and emotionally overwhelmed. If youre serious and ready to provide the utmost support, you can tell them to call on you even when they feel awful or depressed, even if its in the middle of the night.
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Distract Me With Little Surprises
“At some point I must’ve told one of my co-workers about how when I was a child and I’d get sick my mother would always buy me a little gift,” recalls Aimee Johnson, 46, executive director of the Alabama arm of the American Diabetes Association. So, the first time she went to chemotherapy, Johnson’s staff had a little present for her. “And then every time I went to chemo, there was a giftNetflix to watch or a book to read while I was there,” she says. “Or flowers to take home.” A friend of Victoria Irwin’s bought her tickets to a concert series. “That was her gift to methe gift of distraction from treatment. Otherwise my days would have revolved around radiation in the morning,” Irwin says. “The little distractions help you feel normal.”
What You Can Do: Errands And Projects
Many people want to help friends facing a difficult time. Keep in mind that wanting to help and offering to be there for your friend is what matters most.
- Take care of any urgent errands your friend or the caregiver needs right away.
- Run an errand for the caregiver its as helpful as an errand for your friend.
- Your friend may appreciate it more if you take care of frequent, scheduled errands, rather than fewer ones that take a lot of time.
- Look for ways to help on a regular basis.
- Plan projects in advance and start them only after talking with the caregiver.
- Include the person in usual work projects, plans, and social events. Let them be the one to tell you if the commitment is too much to manage.
- Check before doing something for your co-worker with cancer, no matter how helpful you think you are being. Keep them up-to-date with whats happening at work.
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Even Small Gestures Can Be Meaningful To Someone With Cancer
Supporting a loved one with breast cancer may be something you feel simultaneously eager to do and confused about how to begin. Patients’ days are often consumed with seeing doctors, receiving treatments, and dealing with side effects. They may have a hard time keeping up with routine responsibilities or feel emotionally burdened by the impact of their disease. What this means is that being there for a loved one with breast cancer can take many formsand there’s no doubt that the help you provide will be needed.
Of course, every person is different. It can help to trust what you know of a person’s personality or lifestyle, but remember that breast cancer can change things. A person who might not normally seek out a shoulder to lean on may need just that. If it’s not clear how you can ease the burden, it’s always worth asking if ideas like the following might help.
Im Here For You Im Listening
Its common to feel pressure to find the right words to say, but sometimes the best thing is to let your friend do the talking.
Everyone wants to feel heard and know there is someone on the other line who can be there to support them, Muradian says. Thats all you have to do sometimes, lend that ear, and it helps to purge out all these feelings Its so powerful.
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How Else Can I Help
Looking for more ways to lend a hand to those with breast cancer? There are lots of ways to help out, show you care and make others aware:
- Create an online calendar to organize meal deliveries, rides and other tasks to assist your loved one as he or she travels the breast cancer journey.
- Bring together family, friends and coworkers to help support and care for your loved one through a caring social network and planner. CaringBridge provides sites where friends and family can stay connected and updated on someones health event and leave messages of hope and encouragement. The planner also gives you the power to set a community of support in motion by organizing meals, tasks and other helpful activities.
- Join us in a Komen Race for the Cure® or More than Pink Walk, the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world.
- Komen is lucky to have so many corporate partners in the fight against breast cancer Learn how you can participate in raising money and awareness for breast cancer by participating in these events or buying these everyday products.
Helping Your Parent Or Sibling Who Has Cancer
Just like everyone else, the person in your family who has cancer may be worried, scared, or confused. They may also feel tired and sick because of the treatment. You may both have many of the same feelings. Knowing how another person is feeling can help you figure out how to help them, or at least understand where they are coming from.
People with cancer may feel afraid. Depending on how your sibling or parent reacts to tough situations they may be more or less afraid. Others may feel sad. People with cancer sometimes cannot do things they used to do. They may miss certain activities and friends. Cancer and treatment side effects can sometimes cause a person to be mad or grumpy. Chances are your family member is angry at the disease, not at you. Many people with cancer are hopeful. You can learn more about what your sibling may be feeling in chapter 5 of When Your Brother or Sister Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens and in chapter 4 of When Your Parent Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens. Ways to help a family member who has cancer include:
Last week I decided to do something drastic to show my sister how much I love her. I shaved my head! I am not saying thats the right thing for all sisters to do–but it felt like the right thing for us.
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Be There Before During And After Treatment
Another way you can provide emotional support is by being there throughout the whole process. With cancer, there are a lot of unknowns. Despite the unlimited literature about breast cancer treatment options and survival, there are still no assurances of what the future will bring to the patient.
Thus, the emotional support you can offer them is your consistency and willingness to help them throughout the whole journey. Its worth noting that life after breast cancer treatment could be scary and challenging, so dont forget to be there for your friend and loved one during this time in their life.
What You Can Do: How To Offer Support
Some people find it hard to accept support even when they need it. Dont be surprised or hurt if your friend refuses help. Its not you. Its more about pride and their need for independence.
- Provide emotional support through your presence and your touch.
- Help the caregiver. In doing so, youll help your friend. Many people are afraid of being a burden to their loved ones.
- Offer practical ideas on what you can do to help, and then follow through.
- Assume your help is needed, even if there are others also helping out.
- If your friend needs medical equipment or money for treatment, you can look into getting something donated or organizing ways to help raise money,
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Taking Care Of Your Loved One
There are many ways to help a family member with stage 4 breast cancer, and youll learn many more as you go. Sit down with your loved one and talk about how you can help. Ask which day-to-day tasks theyd like to do themselves, and which theyd like assistance with.
Help your loved one look and feel more like themselves. If they lose their hair, offer to take them shopping for a wig if they want one, or pretty scarves or caps. Call or visit your local American Cancer Society location or go online to see what programs they have available. Some offer free wigs and other head coverings.
The Look Good Feel Better program is also a wonderful way to learn how to help your loved one look their best during treatment.
Understand that there may be emotional ups and downs. Try not to take them personally. Give your loved one space to work through their emotions at their own pace, but be there for support when needed. Help them find support groups online or locally so they can speak with others in similar situations.
Keep up with all of your love ones doctor and treatment appointments, and take them to each visit. Keep a notebook of questions the two of you think of in between appointments so you remember to ask them. Help them with research so that you both understand treatment options.
Just be there. You wont always say or do the right thing, and you definitely wont have all the answers. Thats OK. Just being there can go a long way.