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When you learn that a family member or friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer, your most likely impulse would be to head over to them and lend your support even if you don’t know what to do. Unfortunately, there are times when your well-meaning desire to help and provide encouragement might do more harm than good. So, before you call or ask a cancer-stricken patient with details and information about cancer, it may be a better idea to learn how you can effectively provide help. Here are eight ways to emotionally support a breast cancer patient:
Do Your Research
Let’s face it, not everyone knows and understands breast cancer. Even doctors sometimes don’t know what to do when a dear person is diagnosed with cancer. So, for a meaningful way to offer encouragement, it would be a good idea to visit legitimate breast cancer support and counseling sites. Such organizations provide resources on how you can offer emotional support to a patient afflicted with the condition.
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. It’s worth noting that life after breast cancer treatment could be scary and challenging, so don’t forget to be there for your friend and loved one during this time in their life.
Open Your Heart And Listen
When your beloved friend or family opens to you about their breast cancer news, you’ll probably feel shocked. But remember, this moment isn’t about you and your feelings. The best way to help at this point is to share the emotional burden your loved one is feeling.
Try to open your heart, not just your ears, and intently listen to what the cancer patient feels. Just let the person unload their feelings, fears, and thoughts. Simply allowing them to feel that you care and that you’re there to provide support and comfort is all they need at this stage of their cancer journey.
Know What Not To Say
Friends and family members of cancer patients typically want to be problem-solvers, cheerleaders, or pep talkers. However, sometimes these may not be the things a patient needs. Some breast cancer patients shared that they don’t want to hear words like, ‘You’re strong,’ ‘You’ve got this,’ and ‘You inspire us.’ These may be how you feel, but sometimes these words make patients more upset and disheartened.
So, instead of trying to rally a person living with breast cancer to become a warrior and fight the disease, it would be better just to tell them you’re thinking about them and praying for them.
Let Them Know You’re Available Anytime
Many cancer patients don’t want to bother anybody. As much as possible, they don’t 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 you’re 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 it’s in the middle of the night.
Try Things That Worked In The Past
If you’re a long-time friend, partner, or family member, there’s a chance that the breast cancer diagnosis won’t be the first hurdle you and the patient will face. So, look back and remember how the two of you dealt with difficult things in the past.
Maybe you had a trip to the beach before that helped with heartbreak, or sung your hearts out at a karaoke bar before an exam helped calm your nerves. During these rough moments, you can try to do things that have worked to deal with problems in the past.
Give A Semblance Of Normalcy
Often, colleagues, distant relatives, and long-lost friends barrage cancer patients with well wishes and words of encouragement. Although the overwhelming show of support is a welcome relief, talking about cancer nonstop can be exhausting, too.
Thus, to help your beloved cope with the situation emotionally, you may want to talk about everyday things. If you have a game night every Tuesday, continue doing that if possible, so your cancer patient would forget about their disease and feel normal again, even for just a moment.
Also, when you set a meeting outdoors, don’t rant about what you learned online or possible treatments unless it’s the purpose of your appointment. Instead, talk about your children, tell jokes, or continue discussing mundane things.
Respect Their Privacy
Many things go on in the minds of breast cancer patients, especially females who may be facing the loss of one or both of their breasts. So, even if you feel bad about the circumstances, try to give the patient some space. If you and your friend were used to you simply barging in on your friend unannounced before the cancer diagnosis, then you may want to lessen that habit a bit. Instead, call or text first before you visit.
Or, if your friend is alone, schedule a daily visit. Your friend needs time to rest and recuperate, especially during treatments. Thus, if you barge in whenever you feel like it, you may be disturbing them while they’re sleeping or taking a rest.
The Bottom Line
As a friend or family of a breast cancer patient, you probably are ready and willing to offer your help. But sometimes, even your well-meaning pep talk or words of encouragement can make your loved one upset or more depressed.
Hence, if you want to provide meaningful and much-needed emotional assistance, you can start by opening your heart and ears and be willing to listen. Your time spent listening can go a long way for cancer patients. From there, you can find out and discuss other ways you could offer support.