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Support from Friends and Family

If you have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may not be ready to share this information with everyone. This is completely normal and you should not feel like you have to tell anyone before you are ready. Eventually, it will help you to share your burden with others and allow others to support you in your times of need.

Getting the Word Out

Which friends or family members should you tell first? Who will keep you from breaking down on the spot? Decide who these people are and rely on them to help you get through the next few days and weeks. They may include your spouse or partner, children, brothers and sisters, and your parents. Or it may be your best friend.

Some of these people may not be able to handle this kind of information initially. This is especially true of young children, family and friends who live far away or other people that are dealing with illnesses.[1] However you decide to tell people is up to you, but remember that support from others is vital in your healing process.

Support Comes in Many Forms

Emotional support is one of the key forms of support you will need throughout your journey. You will also need people to help you with day to day activities. You may ask a family member to pick up the kids after school or go to the grocery store for you because you have a doctor’s appointment or you are not feeling well.

You may want someone who is very organized to go with you to your appointments. They can help you take notes and ask the doctor questions so you do not forget anything from the appointment. This time is extremely emotional for you and an extra set of eyes and ears will help you get all the information you can from each doctor’s visit.

Support for Supporters

Can you be a “cancer survivor” if you have not been diagnosed with cancer? Friends and family members supporting those with cancer are also on a journey. They may experience denial, anger, emotional bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance at any time during the experience.[2] It is important for family members and friends to know they are not alone in supporting their loved one. They may feel inadequate because they cannot ‘fix’ the problem. But there are support groups for those who are supporting cancer patients for this reason.

Talking with a Friend with Cancer

Lori Hope, author of Help Me Live, 20 Things People with Cancer Want You to Know, is a cancer survivor and a cancer supporter for friends and family members. She found that the most difficult thing for her during her journey was for her friends to be able talk to her. Everyone wanted to be supportive but ended up saying things that were not helpful. [3]

People are sometimes afraid to be around others with cancer, or they may just not know how to act. It brings up the matter of life and death and people are forced to deal with their own fears of dying. If people that are close to you turn away, this may be the reason.

Sympathy is important but cannot be the only emotion someone can share with you. The other person does not know what you are going through and how it feels, but allow them to try.

A recent study revealed that 10-30% of women with breast cancer utilize available psychosocial services and that 60% of women indicated they would have accepted services if they had been offered. The results of this study encouraged medical professionals to provide more resources for support to their patients.[4] The importance family and friends for support cannot be overstated.

References

1  Deborah A. Cohen, R. M. (2000). Just Get Me Through This The Practical Guide to Breast Cancer. New York City: Kensington Publishing Corporation.

2 Bonner, Dede, PhD. (2008) The 10 Best Questions. Fireside.

3 Cohen, op. cit.

4 Friedan, J. (2004). Breast Cancer and Mental Health. Clinical Psychiatry , 102.

Guidance for Friend and Family. (n.d.). Retrieved from Y-Me: www.y-me.org/support/caring/guidance.php

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.