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Someone you know has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and you want to know how to support or find resources for them. Below you will be able to find a few ways to help emotionally, physically, medically, resourcefully and financially support that individual.
From the first diagnosis until long after the final treatment, be positive. No matter how daunting the prognosis is, be positive. This is not the time to suddenly remember the most grim outcomes of other people that have died from cancer. Everybody’s experience with cancer may be different. Technology and advances in medicine are different from that of the previous year.
Cancer is never guaranteed to be completely gone and for some patients recurrence is a fear they live with. Time periods without cancer symptoms are called remission. Focusing on the positive can help individuals chose not to live in fear, but live normally. Many patients have gone into remission or have out lived estimates given to them. This could be attributed to strong hope, faith, resolve and having a great support system.
Most importantly, it is not how many days a patient is expected to live, but how well the patient lives out those days that is important. Looking forward to days filled with enjoyable activities, comforting companions, and meaningful memories is better than daily reminders of a life cut short.
Be a Good Listener
Allow the person to discuss their feelings and vent anything they feel necessary. Discussions may become repetitious and exhaustive until the person has gotten over the initial shock.
Expect the Possibility of Mental Changes
Cancer patients may need to take medications, have surgery or endure therapy that may cause a lot of anguish, stress, or strain on mental faculties. Before rounds of treatment begin, become knowledgeable about the illness, treatments and get advice on how to mentally cope.
Encourage your loved one not to go to doctor’s appointments alone. Some people are nervous or may have a ton of things going through their mind. Having a second person there to take notes, ask questions or be there for emotional support can be incredibly soothing.
Encourage enrollment in a cancer support group. Most support and outreach groups are free and found in the hospitals, local community centers, churches and colleges. These programs serve as powerful positive support and outreach systems. Members usually are cancer patients and survivors that share their experiences, insights and motivations. New comers can ask what is to be expected, find out the patient’s side of undergoing treatment and share their feelings with people that have gone through similar experiences. Friends and families are often encouraged to join and participate. They also find benefit in learning how to cope in times of distress caused by caring for a stricken loved one.
In the event your love one becomes depressed or exhibit signs of severe grief, encourage your love one to seek help from a counselor, therapist or psychiatrist familiar with the mental needs of cancer patients. Let them know they do not have to be alone, encourage communication and emphasize positivity.
Preparing for Physical Changes and Aftercare
The more aggressive the treatment, the harder the toll is on the body and mind. Various cancer treatments are known to cause severe fatigue, hair loss, vomiting and suppress appetite.
Before therapy starts, encourage the patient to exercise and enjoy fun activities. The better health one is in before treatment, the more capable the person is able to cope, manage stress and live longer.
Find out if wigs, make-up, care packages, prostheses and adaptive equipment are available through insurance, hospital or organizations. Exploring wigs or styles that accentuate baldness will help keep the patient in a good frame of mind and adapt to circumstances not in their control. This will help stave off depression by increasing self-esteem.
Before your love one comes home, prepare their bedroom with extra pillows, extra blankets, a mattress protector, small wash basin, small plastic lined trashcan specifically for bouts of nausea, tv tray, reading material and anything else the patient will need to keep comfortable during down times.
Severe fatigue may make it harder for a patient to maintain hygiene. There are shampoos and bathing products that do not require water or getting into a tub.
Share the Responsibility
Delegating responsibility with family members and friends will cut down on frustration, show support to the sick individual, improve on the quality of care received and help speed up recovery. For individuals that do not have a lot of family and friends, there are organizations, churches and community services that have outreach services to assist indiviudals in times of need.
Sometimes, families find they need help with affording medicine, hospital bills, and other special needs. Hospitals, insurances, cancer communities and organizations have made it easier for patients to qualify and receive resources. Some resources are not financial but serve to alleviate financial burdens. Providing services such as transportation, home healthcare or babysitting can help patients use their monies for other medical bills.
A list of organizations that help with cancer-related resources can be found here.
More local government agencies and cancer-related organizations that can provide resources are listed below: