As I’m sure you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of this very important month, I’m sharing a few ways that you can help a friend or loved one cope with a diagnosis of breast cancer. While this type of cancer has touched my life only in an “on the outskirts” sort of way (I had a friend who dealt with it, as well as a distant relative), unfortunately, I am all too familiar with another type of cancer. My aunt has been battling brain cancer for the last two years. These tips are really for anyone suffering from such a heart-wrenching illness.
5 Ways to Help a Loved One Cope with Breast Cancer
Here’s the thing: as much as you want to, you can’t completely take away the pain of a breast cancer diagnosis. Finding out that you have cancer has to be pretty much the scariest moment ever. When my aunt told us that she had brain cancer, I felt like someone sucked all the air out of the room. No matter how you feel about your loved one’s diagnosis, they feel a million times more terrified. While you can’t take that away completely, you can show that you will be there for them through it all. Here are a few suggestions.
Use your words to show support
It’s hard to know the right thing to say when we find out that our loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer (or any cancer, for that matter). Whatever you do, don’t minimize their feelings by saying something like “oh, you’ll be fine, you’re tough, you’ll beat it!” While you certainly want to encourage them to fight, saying “you’ll be fine” or things like that just minimizes their feelings. Instead, just offer to listen when they need to talk. You can also check out a few of our favorite breast cancer awareness quotes to give you a bit of inspiration for words of encouragement.
If you have writing talents, put them to use to help your friend. Whether it’s sending out emails to update other loved ones for her (with her permission, of course) or using your words to tell her story for a fundraiser to cover medical bills, your talents can definitely help support her during her time of need.
Offer to cook for her!
This is one of the nicest things you can do for a loved one battling any disease. My aunt was so wiped out after her treatments that cooking was the last thing she wanted to do. We put together a list of 7 recipes to make for someone fighting breast cancer. They’re all pretty easy to prepare and will feed her entire family.
If baking is more your thing, whip up a batch of these pink ribbon cookies as a special treat. I’m not exactly a master chef in the kitchen, but I can bake pretty well. I would opt to give a food delivery gift card for the actual meal, then send a batch of these cookies as a dessert or snack.
Lift her spirits with a chemo care package
Chemotherapy is incredibly taxing on both the body and the spirit. My aunt went through rounds of chemo and radiation before she moved on to other types of treatment that were equally exhausting. A chemo care package is a great way to show you care and lift your friend’s spirits a bit. Include things like a journal, a comfy blanket, and high-protein snacks that are also easy on the tummy. If possible, give the care package in person and include the gift of your time as well!
Spend time together on a new (or favorite) hobby
While nothing is going to completely distract your friend from the fact that she’s dealing with cancer, spending time together working on a hobby is a great way to temporarily get her mind off of it. Take a photography class together or learn how to bake cakes like a pro. Go bird watching! Collect stamps. Another great idea: spend time together making breast cancer awareness crafts to give to cheer up others who may not have such a strong support system.
Supporting companies that support research
I’ve been much more aware of companies that support cancer research ever since my aunt was diagnosed. While it’s not directly helping her right now, I feel like it could help her in the future. Even if they don’t find a cure today, tomorrow or this year, by supporting these companies, I am helping to make sure that one day, no one else’s aunt will ever have to go through what mine is.
These are just a few ways to help a loved one cope with breast cancer. The most important thing of all, though, is to just be there. Be present, be supportive, be loving. Be there. It will be hard at times. I do not cope with loss- or the possibility of loss- well at all. It’s incredibly tempting to just shut down and live in denial, pretend that everything is going to be just fine. The thing is, that doesn’t help my loved one, and this isn’t about what’s best for me. It’s about what is best for her. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you can’t cook, craft or afford to support companies that support breast cancer research. These are all fabulous ways to support your loved one, yes, but the most important thing you can give is your time.