Cancer is Tough, but You’re Tougher: Supporting a Loved One with Breast Cancer
Patriarchs and matriarchs hold their families and communities together across the globe. And yet, their well-being often comes second — affecting all the lives around them. No one is exempt from a possible breast cancer diagnosis. According to the American Cancer Society, 2,800 men will be diagnosed with it in 2023, while an estimated 297,790 women will receive their diagnosis. These staggering numbers make breast cancer the most common cancer in women worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.1,2
Someone who’s always held down the fort might struggle to ask for help when they’re going through cancer. And it’s just as hard for their loved ones to really know HOW to help. We’re here with tips from Breast Cancer Now on how to offer support to someone with cancer.2
How to Offer Practical Cancer Support
Many people want to continue their normalcy as much as possible during treatment. The reality is that side effects often make it difficult to continue with everyday functions. As a loved one, you can take some of their load off by assisting with household chores and other physically difficult tasks. Keep in mind: Before you commit to anything, it’s important to think about how much time you can realistically set aside to help.
Things You Could Do:
- Cleaning and vacuuming
- Meal prepping
- Transportation beyond appointments
A Guide to Emotional Support
Processing any cancer diagnosis is heavy for even the strongest people. It carries a lot of weight mentally and emotionally. Most people experience an array of emotions from anger to depression, and processing the diagnosis can be hard for even those who “always have it together.” With life-altering events, it’s easy to get caught up with knowing what to say and how to show up for them.
Here are Three Ways to Help Your Loved One Emotionally:
- Don’t be afraid to cry
- Show patience
Allowing your loved one to express how they’re feeling whether it’s venting or sharing their deepest intrusive thoughts is probably one of the most important ways to show up for them emotionally. They already have a doctor, they need a loved one.
Though it’s easier said than done, try not to be afraid of the tears you both might shed. Crying not only lets out pent-up emotions, but it is also a positive way to release endorphins. These feel-good chemicals have the ability to ease physical and emotional pain.3
With a cancer prognosis, it’s possible you could receive misdirected anger from your loved one. This can be hurtful — particularly if you’re doing everything you can to be there for them. Be patient, and try to remember that the anger is often because they’re upset about having cancer, not because they’re actually angry with you.
Sitting down and listening to your friend or relative talk about how they’re feeling can sometimes be difficult or feel distressing, but it might be extremely helpful to express how they’re feeling — especially for improving their mental health.
Give Yourself Some Grace, Too
You can also show up for your loved one by taking care of yourself. We know it sounds almost irrelevant to focus on yourself when someone close is experiencing something so altering. Caring for someone you love with cancer can be demanding. You need to prioritize yourself to continue to help them.
Ways to Look After Yourself:
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Mental check-ins with yourself
- Schedule your mammogram
If you’re finding it difficult to do these things and feeling overwhelmed, let a friend, family member, or a mental health professional know. If you’re someone who’s been recently diagnosed, it could be comforting to share with someone who’s been there, according to the American Cancer Society.4
Sometimes your loved one will be reluctant to ask for help and actually accept it. Just keep in mind how you’d feel if the roles were reversed. It’s important to some people to try and maintain any sense of normal. It’s also important to continue to do everyday things when it’s difficult. At the end of the day, your loved one will never forget how much you’ve been there for them.
The content in this piece is for information purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice. Please contact your medical professional for specific advice regarding your health and treatment. This information may be relevant in the U.S. and other markets and is not intended as a product solicitation or promotion where such activities are prohibited. Because Hologic materials are distributed through websites, eBroadcasts, and tradeshows, it is not always possible to control where such materials appear. For specific information on what products may be available in a particular country, please write to email@example.com.
1. Cancer Facts & Figures 2023. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2023/2023-cancer-facts-and-figures.pdf. Accessed June 13, 2023.
The Global Breast Cancer Initiative. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/initiatives/global-breast-cancer-initiative. Accessed June 12, 2023.
2. How to Support Someone with Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Now. https://breastcancernow.org/information-support/facing-breast-cancer/how-support-someone-breast-cancer. Accessed June 10, 2023.
3. 9 Ways Crying May Benefit Your Health. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-crying. Accessed June 10, 2023.
4. Join Now for Breast Cancer Support. American Cancer Society. https://reach.cancer.org/gad=1&gclid=CjwKCAjw4ZWkBhA4EiwAVJXwqY3PH15v6A5VK6AfoflEoha5LAZbhsTnJl5X0gAmVEiOI3m6CyHBJhoCecAQAvD_BwE. Accessed June 10, 2023.
5. What Can I Do? What Can I Day? Susan G. Komen. https://www.komen.org/support-resources/support/for-friends-and-family/for-co-survivors/what-can-i-do-say/. Accessed June 10, 2023.
6. Caring for Someone. BreastCancer.Org. https://www.breastcancer.org/about-you/caring-for-someone. Accessed June 10, 2023.