A year ago a friend told my husband, “Isn’t it amazing how the day your wife was diagnosed with cancer EVERYTHING changed, but literally the day before it was like any ‘normal’ day?”
He was right!
Everything changed when the call came in at 3:40pm on September 7, 2018, to tell me that I did in fact have Breast Cancer at 34 years old.
EVERYTHING I thought and felt changed in a moments notice.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was how my relationships with others would change.
I knew more than the average person in my shoes because my mom had gone through this journey 8 years prior, but it’s still VERY different when YOU are the one experiencing the emotions, thoughts, words and diagnosis.
What shocked me most was how people changed in their interactions with me.
Some cried to the point I was consoling them instead of vice versa. A few swooped in at a moment’s notice to surround me with love and support.
Others waited for me to bring it up. Some avoided the conversation all together, as if NOT acknowledging it made me feel better.
For me, that did not work. But I learned some people really don’t know what to do or not do in these situations.
There were those who almost instantly shared their friend’s horror stories and told me about all the people they knew who had died from breast cancer. (I wouldn’t recommend sharing that, especially in a new diagnosis circumstance!)
Then there were those who waited to be told what to do.
What I’m about to share and recommend, is my opinion and my opinion only.
What may work for me, may not for others.
But the one thing I wasn’t expecting was how more times than I could count, I was asked/told, “I wish someone could tell me what’s the best way to support someone with Cancer. What does she need? What do I say?”
If you are looking for a way to offer support to someone going through the Breast Cancer journey or you yourself are in the midst of this and want to share with other’s what you need when words fail you, here’s some suggestions that hope helps…..
So here are my top 10 ways to support someone going through Breast Cancer:
- Ask that person how you can support them in their journey, if they haven’t told you. Then LISTEN to them! Don’t just tell ‘em, “You let me know.” There’s a lot on their plate and sometimes it takes too much energy. But if you can ask early on, you can be there in a way that is best for them. But things change, and sometimes just being asked feels sooooo comforting.
- Please do not provide UNSOLICITED advice, especially if you have never been through this journey. However well-intentioned you may be, this is an information overload journey and we don’t need more of it. If you want to share, ask that person or someone close if it’s alright to share.
- A call, even if it’s just a voice message, a text, flowers, a book, a funny movie, her favorite cookies, a letter or a card can ALL go a LONG way. This can be a VERY isolating journey so your effort to make this person feel seen and leave them with a little reminder makes a world of difference. It doesn’t take a lot to show you care but it makes a HUGE impact--Especially on those hard days!
- If she has kids, she’ll need help. Offer to come over and help with them or have ‘em over for slumber parties. The whole family is going through a lot and this will help.
- Offer to bring a meal for the person and/or their family because she and her caretakers could use the break. But ask what they can eat/like because some will have limitations depending on their treatment.
- Offer to clean their house or send someone there to do it.
- If she has hair, offer to wash it, braid it, brush it or take her somewhere for a blow-out because she won’t be able to wash her hair for a while after surgery, but it can make her feel SOOOO good.
- After the initial announcement, life is very overwhelming with an outpouring of love and support, but don’t forget to check in on her after 3-months, 6-months, a year later or as long as it takes for her to get through this journey. As time goes on people will check-in less, and that’s when she’ll need you to check-in more than ever.
- Don’t assume because she’s strong she doesn’t need you. Trust me, strong people need to be checked on too! SHE WILL NEED YOU! She needs to know you are praying for her, recognizing her warrior spirit and cheering her on. TELL HER! Don’t assume she knows. You can never tell someone too much during this journey!
- Get an I See You Candle and create an #iseeyoumoment for her! Wishes Aren’t Just for Birthdays. Despite being the co-founder of this company, I had a handful of friends, family members AND EVEN my own medical team create an I See You Moment for me and I will never forget what it felt like. To be told I was strong and could do this meant they saw me and recognized the depth of what I was going through when I least expected it.
Every woman is different.
Some are more private than others.
But, however you choose to support her, remember this: For her, this will be a roller coaster of emotions and experience. It is a marathon and not a sprint.
And just because the treatments and surgeries are completed does not mean this journey is done. It takes time to heal.
After the physical scars heal, the emotional ones may still require work and support. The Anniversaries may be a lot for her. Check-in on her!
SCAN-Xiety or Scan Anxiety may be a real thing for her every month, 3-months, 6-months, or even yearly.
Don’t forget to remind her she’s NOT ALONE and that you do recognize the challenges she may still be experiencing. If you create a safe space for her to share, she just might! Then listen to her!!!! Sometimes all you have to do is listen.
They say it takes a village to raise a child………..Well, it takes a team to fight cancer. And like any team, 1st string will always need support from 2nd string, coaches need assistants, and sometimes we all just need a water boy! 😊
I hope this helps!
I’m now in the season of my 1-year anniversaries and it's an emotional one.
But I’m forever grateful for those of you who stuck beside through it all.
I’m grateful for the prayers that were spoken, even when I didn’t know it.
I’m blessed to be able to celebrate my one-year Cancer FREE Anniversary in just a few weeks.
Where ever you, your friend, co-worker or loved one are at in the Breast Cancer journey, I can only remind you to keep going, keeping fighting, choose positivity and when in doubt, make a wish because every little bit helps!
CEO & Co-Founder of The I See You Company, LLC