Roughly 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Think about that for a moment. If there eight women in your life you are fortunate enough to love, one of them will develop breast cancer and will need your support as they fight for their lives and pick up the pieces during recovery.
Be Her Rock
Fighting and surviving cancer is an emotional roller coaster of fear, anxiety, and depression and talking through these emotions is healthy. Listening, truly listening, isn’t easy, but it is critically important. Listen to her and be present.
You may also be able to help her listen more effectively if you are there to take notes for her. Offer to attend appointments with her and take notes so she can focus on hearing what the doctors and other professionals are saying and you both can review and digest the information later.
Read Her Blog
There are several online platforms where women can create their own blog to share their breast cancer journey with friends, family, and colleagues (lotsahelpinghands.com, mylifeline.org, caringbridge.org). It can be exhausting to repeat the same update repeatedly, or even keep track of who she’s already updated and who still needs to know.
A blog is an efficient way to keep everyone updated on how things are going, so, if she has one, read it. When you speak to her, you’ll already know what is happening and can ask the right questions and offer meaningful support.
If they are comfortable with it, connect her to other survivors in your social network. Hearing other survivor stories secondhand isn’t necessarily helpful but talking with someone else who’s experienced what she’s going through can be. Other survivors can provide validation and insight on what did and didn’t work for them.
Be a Distraction
Sometimes, the most helpful thing is to make her forget what’s happening, even for just a few minutes. Restoring some sense of normalcy, whether it’s a trip to the spa, a movie date, or a lot of laughs over a nice bottle of wine can be energizing. Laughter really is the best medicine, so don’t be afraid to make her laugh or find a way to bring a little levity to a serious situation. A going away party for her breasts, perhaps, complete with nipple tattoos for everyone, may help the scariest event of her life seem a little less dark if even for a moment.
Like laughter, it’s hard not to feel a little better when someone you love surprises you with a thoughtful treat. Make those treatment days a little brighter with a good book to read or a soft scarf.
Celebrate the end of treatment with jewelry she can wear like a badge of honor (bonus: this stainless steel mesh bracelet doubles as a lymphedema alert bracelet, a crucial accessory for any breast cancer survivor). You can buy stainless steel mesh bracelets, and other survivor-centric gifts, clothing, and supplies, here at mastectomyShop.com. Surprise her with something that makes her new reality a little easier like a new robe or matching panties for her mastectomy bra.
Join a Support Group
Support groups aren’t just for survivors, they’re for co-survivors, too. You will be riding that emotional roller coaster right along with her, and you need to take care of yourself if you’re going to be any help to her. Your fellow co-survivors can give you advice on how to better cope with your own emotions, and how to be a better support person for the survivor in your life.
Fighting and surviving cancer is a journey. Be there for the long haul, through the ups and downs, the good moods and bad spirits, the hope and the despair. She’ll need you through it all.
Join the Fight
Sponsor or participate in a fundraising walk/run with her or on her behalf. It is an intensely emotional and powerful experience to be surrounded by a large group of people all focused on one goal: finding a cure. It can be therapeutic and invigorating for you both.