October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with one person being diagnosed every 10 minutes, we at The Unedit feel that it’s important to offer the right information and guidance. That’s why this October we’re working in support of Breast Cancer Care, the only specialist UK-wide support charity for people affected by breast cancer. Each week, we’ll be bringing you articles with the help of the charity’s specialists, to do our part in raising awareness.
Many of us know someone who is or has been affected by breast cancer. It’s not an easy road, and it can become more difficult if you’re struggling to find ways to show your support. That’s totally okay, because nobody really has all the answers, nor are they expected to. Dr Emma Pennery CBE, Clinical Director at Breast Cancer Care, offers some top tips on how to support a friend (or family member) affected by breast cancer:
1. Swot up
Knowing a bit about breast cancer and the treatments involved can make you feel more confident when talking to your friend. You can find reliable information on Breast Cancer Care’s website that will take you through each stage of your friend’s treatment and beyond.
2. Group chat
Keeping friends and family updated while having treatment can be a challenging job, especially when facing side effects like nausea. Nominate one person in your circle of friends who updates the rest of the group and can let you know whether your mutual friend feels up to more phone calls or not.
3. Meals on wheels
Breast cancer treatment can cause extreme tiredness, also known as fatigue. Your friend will probably be incredibly tired at times, and previously simple things like cooking dinner can become major tasks. Popping round regularly with meals that can be frozen will save your friend time and energy.
4. Small acts of kindness
There might be times when your friend needs some space. Show that you care without overwhelming them with little gestures that let them know you’re thinking of them. This could be something like dropping off their favourite magazine or sending a card with a memory you share with them.
5. It’s okay to say no
Wanting to support your friend as best you can is completely natural. But there’ll be times when your friend won’t want to talk or accept help from others so make it clear that saying no is perfectly okay. Ask before you visit, in case they feel too unwell and try not to take it personally if they turn down your offer or cancel plans.
If your friend has surgery as part of their treatment, they might not be able to drive while they heal and public transport can be unreliable and expensive. Offering lifts is a practical way of showing you care and is particularly useful if they need to get to and from chemotherapy or radiotherapy sessions.
7. Don’t overthink it
Your friend is still your friend and there’s no reason to stop doing things you did with them before their diagnosis. Talk about things you normally talk about and treat them the same as you always have.
8. Care after breast cancer
Many people expect to be hugely relieved when they’ve finished breast cancer treatment, but instead can feel scared about what lies ahead. Debilitating long term side effects, anxieties about the cancer returning and damaged body confidence are just some of the issues people are left with after they walk out of the hospital doors. Bear this in mind going forward and be sensitive to how they’re feeling day-to-day. You can also let them know that BECCA, the Breast Cancer Care app, is available with information and support to help them move beyond breast cancer.
If you know someone who's recently been diagnosed but aren't sure how to help, Breast Cancer Care can put you in touch with someone who has supported a partner or family member through breast cancer via their Someone Like Me service. It’s also available for people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
For care, support and information, call Breast Cancer Care’s nurses for free on 0808 800 6000 or visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk.