Supporting someone with Breast Cancer
Finding out a loved one has breast cancer causes everything to change very suddenly. How are you supposed to know, instantly, how to be supportive to a woman going through something this terrifying? Chances are you already have or someday you will be thrust into this role. Here are seven things women with breast cancer and their partners and or friends have discovered about what worked best when it came to supporting them through this ordeal...
1) Support whatever she decides be it a lumpectomy and radiation or mastectomy. Listen to everything she has to say without judgment, remember, your role is to act as a sounding board, letting her bounce her thoughts and fears off of you.
2) Don't let her go to appointments alone, no matter how self-reliant or brave she tries to be. Going to a cancer appointment alone is no fun. We need to be there for reassurance and support, even if you get the, "No, you don't need to bother", statement.
3) Talk to her openly about her breasts. I mean let's be honest, breasts play a big role in our sex lives, and the loss of one or both breasts can threaten her sense of sexuality. As her partner you, and only you, can reassure her the you still find her attractive. As her friend, she needs your reassurance in terms of her looks, her outward shape, and - if she is single- her future dating potential.
4) Anticipate when she can't do something and help, or change things so she can do them herself. This is simple, many woman can't lift there arms for a long time after breast surgery, so you be there to help them with putting on clothes, or putting things on lower shelves so they can reach it themselves.
5) Function as the forward guard-create a buffer zone of peace and quiet around your loved one. A cancer diagnoses typically triggers an even greater need for communication; friends and family members will call, e-mail, and request Facebook updates. This causes the cancer patient to get sucked into taking care of everyone else's reactions when they need to take care of themselves. Think of yourself in the role of a celebrity agent, you take care of the paparazzi.
6) Become her strongest advocate- the fierce, protective papa bear. Ask the doctors and nurses questions and don't let them off the phone until you have concrete solutions. Your weapons? Lots of questions that begin with "Isn't there something available for..." and " What can we do about..."
7) Don't expect everything to be fine right away- even the "well adjusted" cancer patient who thinks she's doing great is going to have some really tough days, and expect delayed reactions. Many women think they can handle their hair loss and feel strong-until they first try on a wig or lose their eyebrows. Be her personal beauty consultant, help her choose head scarves, buy her some new eye makeup, tell her how beautiful she looks-over and over again, year after year. Hang in there, for as long as it takes.