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When Your Friend Has Breast Cancer

Article date: October 7, 2013

Research has shown that people with breast cancer are helped by the support they receive from friends. Many studies have found that cancer survivors with strong emotional support tend to better adjust to the changes cancer brings to their lives, have a more positive outlook, and often report a better quality of life. Often, however, friends of breast cancer patients want to help, but just don’t know what to do.

RESOURCES:

Here are some ideas about where to start:

Keep in touch.

  • Write, text, email, or call often, and keep it short.
  • Call at times that work best for your friend.
  • When she calls or texts you, answer right away.

Visit.

  • Call before you visit, and be understanding if your friend can’t see you at that time.
  • Keep the visit short, and be understanding if the family decides it’s time to end the visit. Bring a movie to watch with your friend, a snack to share, a book to read while your friend naps, or a newspaper to help your friend catch up on current events.
  • Don’t be afraid to touch, hug, or shake hands with your friend.

Know what to say (and not to say).

  • Gear the conversation to subjects that you know your friend likes to talk about.
  • Be sensitive to your friend’s attention span, and understand that she may be too tired to participate actively.
  • Help your friend participate in the conversation by asking her questions: Ask for her advice, her opinions, and how she is feeling.
  • Give honest compliments, such as “You look rested today.”
  • Allow your friend to be negative, silent, or withdrawn, if that is how she’s feeling.
  • Don’t urge your friend to be strong or fight the breast cancer if she doesn’t feel up to it.
  • Don’t leave out your friend when talking to others in the room, or assume she can’t hear you even if she appears to be asleep.
  • Don’t offer medical advice or your opinion on things like diet, vitamins, and herbal therapies.

Offer to run errands.

  • Organize friends, neighbors, and co-workers to help complete regularly scheduled tasks.
  • Helpful tasks may include making meals, cleaning the house, caring for the lawn and garden, babysitting, pet sitting, grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and driving family and friends to and from the airport.
  • Do urgent errands right away.

Remember her caregiver.

Your friend isn’t the only one who may need help coping with breast cancer; the person (or people) taking care of her could also use your support. Often caregivers neglect their own needs because they are so busy taking care of their loved one. Helping your friend’s caregiver is another way to show you care.

  • Offer to stay with your friend while the caregiver takes a break. It’s important for caregivers to get some time to themselves.
  • Help out the caregiver with errands, too. Ask which tasks would be most helpful and follow through.

For more information and resources, call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345, read our Expert Voices blog What to Say When Someone Has Cancer, or read our information about When Someone You Know Has Cancer.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff


ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please contact permissionrequest@cancer.org.

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