Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Table of contents
- How should you respond to a friend diagnosed with breast cancer?
- What can you say to a friend with breast cancer?
- Things you can do for your friend with breast cancer
- Further reading
Breast cancer, like many other cancer diseases, can result in a serious life-changing experience not only to the patient but also to the family, caregiver and friends. Which is why it is totally understandable for someone who is diagnosed with breast cancer to feel shocked, confused, isolated, defeated, and sad.
If you’re a friend to someone with breast cancer, you really need to show up for them and make them feel important. So, as a concerned friend, how can you be a positive influence?
Let’s start with what you can say and do, as well as things you should be careful not to say or do when visiting a friend with cancer.
How should you respond to a friend diagnosed with breast cancer?
Responding to a friend’s diagnosis differs depending on individuals. You can show up at their home or hospital, hug them and allow them to tell you what they want to share with you.
But before visiting, it would be helpful if you take some time to research about your friend’s type of breast cancer and ways you can be of help.
It is also prerequisite for you to remain composed and always be sensitive to your friend’s feelings at the time of visiting.
It should be noted that being available at all times for them is a positive way of responding. Remember, too, that it is okay to express moderate level of emotional feelings; you can cry and laugh with them. But please be ready to listen as they express their fears and concerns.
You need to be careful not to create fear in your friend by what you say and how you say it. Don’t ever mention negative experience of cancer to them. Never discourage them on any type of treatment they decide to choose. Remember too that there is no need to offer advice or opinions no matter how well-intentioned it may, especially if it’s not demanded.
Another tip is asking your friend’s caregiver some important facts about your friend’s breast cancer. So, no matter how knowledgeable you are, never assume you know it all, and do not try to get more information from them than they are willing to share.
Above and beyond, just be there for your friend at all time. Don’t fear. Just be yourself.
Next, let’s discuss some specific words you can say to upbuild your friend.
What can you say to a friend with breast cancer?
When a friend is diagnosed with breast cancer knowing what to say and when to say it can help a great deal.
Here are some soothing words you can say to leave a smile on your friends face:
- “You’re never alone, we are in this together.”
- “You are an amazing person to have the will to fight against breast cancer. I appreciate your courage”
- “I always remember you in my prayers and my thoughts.
- “ Let’s get through this ordeal together.”
- ‘Tell me what you want right now”
- “I love these things about you.” Then plow ahead to say what specific thing you keen on about your friend.
- “I will listen when you need someone to talk to.
- “I really love you.”
While these expressions may sound too common, remember that what makes the real difference is how you say it. So, in essence, your words should portray genuine feelings of compassion and willingness to help.
Simply saying “I love you” or “You are in my thoughts” may just be what your friend needs to hear from you.
However, you may want to avoid incessantly asking “How you are doing?” they may say in their mind; does she really wants me to answer that question. Why not ask “How are you holding up? ”This will make it easy for them to open up”.
More pointers and suggestions on how to talk to a person with cancer can be found here.
Things you can do for your friend with breast cancer
There are many practical ways you can help for example:-
Keep in touch with your friend or their caregiver
This may involve calling as many times as possible, visiting them or sending someone to visit if you are unavailable. Paying a visit to a friend can boost their spirits, yours and that of their caregivers. Put a call through before visiting and make sure you give them enough of your time, don’t rush to leave. Try making future plan of what things you will do or talk about when you see them again, it builds anticipation in the mind of your friend.
Listen to them
There is time to speak and a time to keep quite so the saying goes, look for opportunity where you can be more of a listener to your friend than a speaker. That way you get to know how they are feeling and how you can help. It may also prevent you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Always remember that your friend may prefer not to talk about their health at all times and or may want to intermittently, so ask them if they want to talk about it and let them do all the talking. You can ask your friend how they are holding up, and then really listen to them without pulling away, either physically or emotionally. Even if your friend starts to talk about death or funerals don’t change the subject, just listen.
Cook for them
Sometimes, a breast cancer patient may not have an appetite or may get tired of hospital food. It may be a good thing if you can prepare your friend a meal and bring it for them. You may visit their home and do their cooking for them. But different therapies can change their eating habits and tastes. They might also be restricted in what they can eat, so do check with them before you make them anything.
Pray with them
If your friend is the religious type, hearing you pray for them to cope with their problem can be very comforting.
Buy a breast cancer care parcel
A thoughtful and appropriate breast cancer care package is guaranteed to make your friend/loved one know that you are looking after them. Designed by people who have had experience with cancer, these hampers combine luxury pampering presents with practical and useful items. Containing not just items that will help reduce specific side effects and symptoms of cancer, but also pampering and comforting gifts.
Specify how you want to help
Just telling your friend to call when they need your help is not enough. Action speaks louder than voice. So, offer practical help, such as picking up their grocery, cleaning their home for them, caring for their pets, doing their laundry or even watching over their kids. You may even offer to drive them to their medical appointment.
Send them a card
Such a card can include encouraging, humorous and comforting words that may help them to keep on going.
Cry and laugh together
Your friend’s emotions can change from happiness to sadness and vice versa. Don’t try to stop them when they give way to tears, it may help to relieve their stress or lift their spirits.
Don’t stop even when others do
Endeavor to be a friend who keeps offering help and support, because breast cancer treatment and recovery can take a long time. It may even come back after recovery. Give them the help and support they need.
A breast cancer diagnosis brings different emotions in different people, your friend’s feelings may change daily or even hourly. Since you cannot predict how your friend will feel, you will need to respect their change in mood. The best thing you can do is sit and listen as your friend speaks or opens up to you.
Offer to do specific things for your friend, even if they don’t want your help. Respect their decision and be open to do anything when they want you to do.
Saying nothing at all may be the best thing you could ever say. Letting your friend know you have got their back through their ordeal may be very comforting to them.
Oluwatoyin Joy Oke is 25 year old. She finished her 4 years course/ program in 2018 as a public health practitioner in Osun State University, Nigeria. And has developed in skills involving prevention, treatment and care of diseases.
She works as a Linkage Coordinator connecting people from the community to treatment and care of Tuberculosis and HIV. She recently picked up another skill in writing which she so far enjoy.
She volunteers in creating awareness for people on topics relating to Cancer, mostly the ones common to women (Cervical and breast cancer), mental health, and HIV. In past years she has received certificates of appreciation from different organizations.
Her hobbies are cooking, watching movies, and writing. She places her worship of God as first in her life and giving of herself to her family and others is a priority.