CaringBridge Staff | 05.26.22
Finding out someone has been diagnosed with breast cancer can be a shock. It’s normal to feel like a deer-in-the-headlights and stumble over the right ways to show support when someone is dealing with a serious illness. You might struggle with finding the right words to say or fret over how to be helpful.
Fortunately, our amazing CaringBridge community shared their ideas of what to say to someone with breast cancer. Not only will these ideas help you navigate the situation more seamlessly, but they’ll help your loved one feel uplifted during a difficult time.
1. “You’re stronger than you know.”
As human beings, we tend to compare ourselves with others and struggle to recognize our own qualities. Sometimes it takes a trusted friend or family member to remind us how strong and capable we truly are, especially during difficult times.
Offering words of encouragement and affirming a loved one’s strength will give them a well-needed reminder of their fortitude. Repeated words are powerful, so don’t be afraid to say them often.
“Words of encouragement. Never say ‘my friend/mom/cousin/etc. died’ from breast cancer! No sad books. I appreciated stories of those who survived, if it was my stage (3) or more. Don’t burst into tears when you see them. Offer to take pets to the vet if needed. Pick up prescriptions if possible. Bring a small tub of ice cream and sit for a while.”
“I love you and I am here for you. You are stronger than you think.”
2. “I’m here for you, any time.”
Battling cancer can feel isolating. Offering to be there for your loved one shows them how they’re a priority in your life. Extending help may help to make them feel less alone and cared about.
“The best thing to say is, ‘I’m here for you. Call me any time. Do you need a ride somewhere? Or a place to stay closer to the cancer treatment center?’ NEVER say, ‘Oh my cousin, coworker, friend (whoever) had breast cancer and she’s just fine, you’ll be fine.’ Don’t minimize her feelings and don’t compare her story to anyone else’s. I speak from experience, having gone through breast cancer treatment during the first days of the pandemic.”
3. “Can I take this off your plate?”
It can feel difficult asking for help, and many people dealing with cancer worry about being a burden. You can handle this by offering to do a specific task for them, and even scheduling a regular time and date to make it easier. Offer to do their laundry, clean their home, pick up groceries, or even take them to an appointment.
“…Pick something to do and ask if (this day) will be good for me to…you know we (most of us) aren’t going to call for help. Sometimes they become empty words though said in all seriousness.”
4. “I can go to treatment with you.”
Going to treatment alone can feel scary. Physically be there for your loved one by sitting in on an appointment or attending their treatments. Breast cancer treatments can sometimes last hours, so you can help pass the time and provide comfort by being with them.
“Take them dinner, send cards, and offer to go to a treatment with them! Say ‘Stay Strong’ and ‘I may have cancer but it doesn’t have me!’ I was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer and I will stay positive and nothing will make me change!”
5. “Feel what you need to feel, I’m here.”
It’s common to want to make people feel better right away, but allowing someone to process their emotions is an important part of the healing process.
Your loved one could feel dozens of emotions from one day to the next. You can help them by creating a safe space for them to process and express their feelings. This means withholding judgment, affirming their emotions, and simply being in their company as they take time to feel and process.
“Meals for our family were huge for me when I went through breast cancer. And just having friends around who allow you to be real! Who just sit with you, and allow you to go through whatever emotion you’re having at that time.”
6. “You can fight this.”
Encourage your loved one to fight the good fight. Being diagnosed with breast cancer can feel like an obstacle that we’re wholly unprepared to battle. Sometimes we need a person to help us make a plan of action and figure out the next steps so we don’t stay in shock too long.
Assist your loved one with the next steps and help them wrap their mind around it. Advocate for them with steady encouragement, support and resolve.
“Don’t worry about why you have it, worry about a way of getting rid of it!”
How to Support When You Can’t Find the Words
The old wisdom, “actions speak louder than words” carries a lot of truth. Showing up in practical ways can make someone feel supported and lift heavy burdens off their shoulders. When you can’t find the right words to say, try some of these good deeds.
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer there is an initial outpouring of support, but that can wane over time. You can check in regularly with your loved one and ask how you can assist and care for them.
To help you remember, try setting a reminder on your phone or writing it on your calendar. Or try the CaringBridge Planner, which allows people to list tasks they need help with so friends and family can lend a hand.
It’s simple and easy to use, and can be created and organized by any family member, friend or community member. They can list transportation requests, meal sign-ups, or even schedule errands, and others can check the planner to sign up for any of the listed tasks.
“Take them a meal, speak only words of encouragement such as “Gods got you”, be encouraging and be there for them after surgery, get together with others to chip in to have their home cleaned a few weeks after surgery. Be sure to check in regularly to see if they need anything or if you can run errands for them. Be there for them and always be positive! I’m a 42-year survivor of breast cancer.”
Create a Care Package
Create a care package with a gift box, tote bag or basket and add self-care items. You can put anything inside from fuzzy socks to coloring books. To get you started, check out these Breast Cancer Care Package ideas.
“Warm socks with grippers on the bottom. Cards with encouraging scripture. Washcloths. Food to help the family that is helping the patient. Warm cuddly blankets. Pay for house cleaning services. Flowers.”
Organize a Card Shower
A card shower is when friends and family organize a plan to deliver encouraging notes to someone’s doorstep. Receiving a stream of kind words will boost your loved one’s morale and have them eagerly anticipating their mail.
“Organize a card shower. Receiving cards that can be read over and over is uplifting. And looking forward to the next day’s mail also makes one hopeful.”
Lu Ann F.
Leave Encouraging Words on Their CaringBridge Site
Starting a CaringBridge site is a free and easy tool to share loving messages. Your loved one can post health updates, request help with the CaringBridge Planner, and receive supportive comments from friends and family.
Starting a site only takes five minutes, and you can even offer to set it up on someone’s behalf.
“Our CaringBridge book from when our daughter was near death in ICU for a long time. CaringBridge notes from around the world are a precious keepsake to see God’s power. Just look at the thickness. We paid to have all the notes put into a binder book. CaringBridge offered that service. I just got it out recently to reread and celebrate our daughter’s life.”
Don’t go through your health journey alone
You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.
All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!
How Do You Show Your Support?
We understand that everyone will have different needs and responses when battling breast cancer. It’s hard to know what to say, and there is no perfect way to show support. The important thing is to make the effort, show you care and be a source of encouragement.
We hope a few of these ideas assist your loved one on their healing journey. If you know of other ways to show support, we’d love to hear from you.