What Can I Do? What Can I Say?
It doesn’t take time-consuming and heroic gestures to be a good co-survivor. Sometimes being there and listening is all that matters. Here are just a few ideas of what co-survivors can do to help a breast cancer survivor:
- Run errands
- Send a “Thinking of You” card
- Take him/her to an appointment
- Create an online calendar to organize meal deliveries, rides and other tasks
- Bring together family, friends and coworkers to help support and care for your loved one through a caring social network and planner. CaringBridge provides sites where friends and family can stay connected and updated on someone’s health event and leave messages of hope and encouragement. The planner also gives you the power to set a community of support in motion by organizing meals, tasks and other helpful activities.
Advice for the Caregiver
Communicate: Keep communication between you and your loved one open and honest. Understand that he/she will often worry just as much about you as you do about him/her.
Understand: Learn more about the experiences of others diagnosed with breast cancer.
Talk Medicalese: Learn to better communicate with your loved one’s health care team. This can be a big help when you accompany your loved one to appointments.
Talking to Your Children About Your Diagnosis
Each child and each family is unique, and helping children cope with a loved one’s diagnosis can present many challenges.
However you decide to tell your children, be as open and honest as possible no matter how hard it may seem. You decide how much you want to say. Remember that children, just like adults, will fill in wherever you leave gaps. And because children may not know as much as adults, it is more likely that what they fill the gaps with will be wrong.
Encourage your children to talk to you and to ask questions. Giving honest, realistic answers to their questions will help lessen their fears. If you are going to be gone for a few days, if you are getting sick from the treatment or if you are losing your hair or a breast, let your children know why this is happening. Explain anything that changes their daily routine.
It is a good idea to let your children’s teachers know what you are going through — especially for younger children. The teachers may be able to help the children cope if they spend most of the day at school.
Finally, just as your children depend on you, you can depend on them too. They can be, and probably want to be, a source of support for you. They will want to listen to you, hug you, kiss you and spend time with you. Let them.