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Support is an important piece of the breast cancer puzzle

During the month of October, we tend to focus on the steps we can take to help prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer. But what happens when someone you know receives a breast cancer diagnosis?

Any cancer diagnosis can be devastating and isolating, and a strong support system is an important part of someone’s treatment and recovery process. While everyone deals with cancer differently, there are ways that you can support them throughout their journey.

What Can You Do?

  • Reassure them without making promises: We can’t predict the future. So, telling your friend things will be okay or that they will get through this can ring hollow. Instead, focus on your commitment to helping them—reassure them that you are there to support them every step of the way.
  • Check in regularly: A quick text or email can help brighten someone’s day. Try to check in weekly, but make sure your friend knows that you don’t expect an immediate response.
  • Offer specific help: Instead of telling your friend or their caregiver to let you know what they need, make specific offers to help. Let them know you’d like to bring lunch over on Wednesday or offer to run errands for them on Saturday.
  • Anticipate their needs: If your friend is facing ongoing treatment like chemotherapy or major surgery, you can put together a small, thoughtful gift with items they can use to support treatment and recovery. A blanket, ear buds, water bottle, audio book gift cards and tote bag can help make long chemotherapy treatments more comfortable. For those facing long post-surgical recovery periods, gift cards for restaurants with delivery, magazines, books, or a Netflix subscription can help make meals easier and pass the time.
  • Support the caregiver: Supporting your friend’s caregiver is support for your friend. Offer to spend one afternoon or evening a week with your friend so their caregiver can take time for themselves.

A breast cancer diagnosis is an emotional experience not just for the patient, but for friends, family, and support systems as well. As important as it is to be supportive, it is equally as important to make sure you have your own support system to talk to during the especially difficult or trying times.

Though your friend may be dealing with an unexpected diagnosis and a lot of unknowns, your support means they don’t have to walk the road alone. Your friend may feel more comfortable sharing feelings and experiences that may be difficult or awkward expressing with family members or their caregiver. Talking through these topics can help provide a sense of control and reduce stress as your friend copes with cancer.

St. Clair Health offers additional resources focused on helping patients navigate through their breast cancer journey. You can learn more about these programs and how they can provide additional support at stclair.org/breastcare.