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Five Ways To Support a Loved One Battling Breast Cancer

Published on Friday, July 21, 2017

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women according to the American Cancer Society. Chances are you know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.

Even though the number of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer is high, death rates have decreased in the last 20 years and survivorship is more common. At this time there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Advancement in medicine, screenings, and support from friends and family all play a role in increased survivorship.

“Family, friends, co-workers, and the other people who make up a breast cancer patient’s support system are so important in this fight,” Kathy Olsen, breast care patient navigator at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing said. “Above all, they make her feel special and cared for, and they are there no matter what. It’s important to communicate you will love her as much after breast cancer as you do now.”

Some people feel helpless when a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, however Olsen provides a list of things support people can do to help their loved one.

Be a Shoulder To Cry On

There are many emotions that a patient may experience during their journey. Some common emotions are anger, fear, and sadness. Sometimes a patient just wants a loved one to whom they can vent to.

“Offer emotional support and hope,” said Olsen. “This is my most important role in navigating patients through their journey.  Knowing they will be a breast cancer survivor and that life will return to normal once again is the best thing to help them move forward and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ask for a “To-Do” List

Ask her if there is anything you can help with. Maybe it’s pet-sitting, helping with chores, grocery shopping, or house cleaning. She might not have the energy to do the things she wants, this will help her feel less anxious about chores pilling up.

Pamper Her

Sometimes it’s hard for someone going through treatment to ask for help or special favors. Surprise her by bringing her flowers, her favorite food, a neighborly casserole to help feed the family, massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, or some other special treat.

Spouses can take her out on a special date, cook at home with personal touches, or make future plans to take a special trip. Supporters can also do small things like wash the car, make breakfast in bed, and leave special love notes on the bathroom mirror.

Be a Companion

During cancer treatment patients often need help getting to their many appointments.

“Accompany the patient to doctors appointments and/or chemotherapy to be a second set of ears,” said Olsen. “Patients will be learning a whole new language when hearing breast cancer terms and sometimes it's hard for the patient to focus when all they want to do it run out of the room!”

 Help Build Their Support Group

Fighting cancer is a group effort. With the permission of your loved one; you might want to start an online update of her journey so her support group can grow. It is common for family or friends to start Facebook groups, update community groups, or start a webpage to keep friends and family informed about what is happening in the journey.

If you are interested in more information about Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing’s Breast Care Center or would like to talk with the breast care patient navigator, Kathy Olsen, call (517) 975-2695 or visit http://www.mclaren.org/lansing/breast-care.aspx.