What to Say to a Friend Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
by Carolyn Lee Oct 3, 2022
Each year during October, organisations, charities, and individuals campaign to help raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. People affected by breast cancer and supporters may join charitable walks, donate funds, or create events to support those affected. We know that having a conversation with someone diagnosed with breast cancer can be challenging, so we are sharing a few tips that might help.
Don’t ask a lot of questions; listen.
A friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer needs time to process the impact of their condition. They might also have many questions they plan on asking their healthcare provider. Although finding out a friend has breast cancer can be shocking, try not to ask too many questions. Instead, listen and accept what they are willing to share.
Offer to help.
A friend diagnosed with breast cancer will need your help and support. Offer to help with chores like housework, grocery shopping, washing their hair, dropping off their kids, or picking them up. It’s good to be specific about the day and time, so they know you are serious.
Show up for them – literally.
It can be overwhelming for your friend to process what’s happening and the necessary decisions to help them get better. Offer to go with them to doctor’s appointments and take notes so you can help your friend understand better what might be required. Having a friend with them can provide comfort and ease, especially during doctor’s visits or radiation treatment.
Please educate yourself on what they might need to do.
Some people may require having a mastectomy (removal of one or both breasts), which can be heartbreaking. Try not to refer to this procedure as a breast enhancement. Reconstructive surgery can change the look and shape of their chest. This surgery might span several operations and is an ordeal some women might choose to avoid. Try to accept and support whatever decision your loved one makes.
Be mindful of your comments.
Avoid making insensitive, ageist, or sexist comments. Children and men also get breast cancer; the disease does not discriminate. It is also unhelpful to mention preventative measures that might have helped. If your friend is young, encourage them to find a support group of young people with a similar diagnosis who can relate to what they are going through.
Don’t take things personally.
Your friend, partner, or child is dealing with an intense illness that can be debilitating and energy-consuming. There are days when their condition will take a psychological toll. So, don’t pressure them if they can’t show up, participate, or break plans. Allow them to get the rest they need.
Let them enjoy the breaks they need.
Keep your conversations light during friendly outings like lunch, dinner, or shopping. They don’t need to be constantly reminded of their condition or may not want to talk about it all the time. Please focus on the things they enjoy, like their children, favourite shows, or fun activities.
Other tips you can keep in mind.
Physically healing from cancer does not negate the mental impact the disease may have created. Your loved one may show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder like crying or insomnia or constantly checking for lumps. Please encourage them to speak with their healthcare provider for additional support, like therapy, medications, and other treatments that can help. Finally, please continue to support in tangible ways by sending flowers, a warm email, a text, or a gift you know they will appreciate.
We hope these tips will help. Please use our Find Yello listings for doctors, pharmacies, cancer organisations, and related services. Let’s continue to spread awareness and support those we love.
Sources: Healthline, WebMD, National Breast Cancer, Cancer, and Do Something.