THE BOOSTIER! MANUAL

How to Support Someone Who Has Been Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

We know a breast cancer diagnosis affects not only the individual, but family and friends as well. We can’t, however, overstate the value of your support and love to the person on this difficult journey. There are many ways you can offer encouragement, and if you are the caregiver, there are resources to help you, too (see our Caregiver Section below). The women of Beyond Boobs!® have been blessed with faithful friends and family, whom we call our “Boostiers” (because of the uplifting support they provide!). Take your lead from your loved one because everyone handles the diagnosis in their own way, but below are some of the ways our fabulous “Boostiers!” lifted us up when our “wings were too weak to fly.”

  • First, breast cancer is not a death sentence, so when your friend tells you she has it, please don’t react as if you just received details of the funeral, and definitely do not share horror stories of other women who battled the disease. But downplaying the situation and being overly positive may also appear insensitive. So let her know how sorry your are she is going through this very difficult time, and that you will be with her every step of the way.
  • Everyone truly wants to help, but the well-intentioned offer of “please let me know if there is anything I can do” may not be accepted. Why? Well, for one, your friend may have no clue yet what she will need. And women, used to being nurturers, aren’t always comfortable asking for or receiving help. So make specific offers to assist, such as cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, providing dinner, watching the kids, grocery shopping, doing laundry or running errands. Set a time, and be sure to follow through.
  • Accompany your friend to medical appointments and take notes so she can concentrate on her conversation with the doctor. Chemotherapy appointments are a great opportunity to hang out together as they last for hours and are, well, boring. Take something distracting and fun to do.
  • Organize other Boostiers! to prepare and deliver meals throughout treatment, especially following chemo days and surgery. Create a schedule to ensure she gets a variety of healthy meals and not lasagna every night (www.lotsahelpinghands.org can help). You may even ask your friend for specific meal or dietary suggestions. There are many “pre-assembled meal” businesses that let you create and freeze a dozen dinners so they are available when needed.
  • Volunteer to write a blog on a site such as www.caringbridge.org to keep family and friends informed of your friend’s progress, thus reducing the phone calls she receives. You may also offer to communicate the diagnosis to neighbors, colleagues, etc., so she doesn’t have to keep bracing herself for the reaction each time she shares the news.
  • At Beyond Boobs! we just love pampering! Help your friend celebrate her life and her femininity with all things “girly.” Gifts of lotion, “chick lit” books, comedy DVDs, dark chocolate, indulgent magazines (like People), fluffy slippers, comfy p.j.s, and fun jewelry are always appropriate. You can also take your friend out for tea, lunch, a lighthearted movie, a concert, a manicure, a massage, or even a girls’ night out.

NEED MORE IDEAS?

  • Prior to chemo, throw a hat party to help her collect hats, scarves, and accessories. Music can be especially healing, so if she doesn’t already have one, request donations to purchase an iPod to help her relax and include gift cards for her to purchase her favorite music. If she is physically able, going for a hike or otherwise experiencing nature is very rejuvenating.
  • Are you a Boostier! trying to provide long distance support? Send a cheerful or uplifting card weekly or call just to let your friend know that you are thinking about her. Send small gifts such as those mentioned above, and be sure to include things that aren’t pink. Wearing pink is a really nice way for you to show your support, though.
  • You may help your friend by doing research on the internet for her, but only if she is receptive to this type of assistance. Do respect and support your friend’s decisions regarding her treatment, and don’t give her unsolicited advice in this regard.
  • Be available to listen and to offer a shoulder (and tissue) as needed. Let your friend lead the conversation. She may be tired of talking or thinking about the disease, and may just want to have a normal “visit” about everyday things. Be sensitive about what you say. Complaining about how much you hate your latest hair color to someone about to lose her hair or who is bald is, ummm. . .just tacky! 🙂
  • Don’t think that once her treatment is finished that your friend doesn’t need you any longer. In fact, the end of treatment can actually be really tough as a woman tries to adjust to a life not dominated by doctors’ appointments and procedures. While those around her are waiting for everything to go back to the way things used to be, she may struggle as she figures out her “new normal” and recreates her life post-diagnosis and treatment. She may need you then more than ever.
  • Finally, remember to reach out to the primary caregiver (if that’s not you). Studies show that the serious illness of a loved one is actually more stressful than experiencing such an illness yourself, so the caregiver needs love, encouragement, and your support along the way as well. If you are the primary caregiver, please remember to take care of yourself and allow others to help you, too.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. Dr. Seuss

 

Teresa’s friends helped her dance in the rain while waiting for the storm to pass

 

Help your friend find her “new normal”

CAREGIVERS – WE COULDN’T DO IT WITHOUT YOU!

First and foremost you need to know how vital you are to our wellbeing and to our getting through this as “together” as we can. But, no pressure. 🙂

Seriously, we are grateful beyond words, and if we forget to tell you that as often as we should, please know that we are. Women are typically the “nurturers,” so it can be very difficult for us to be the one on the receiving end, but “receive” is exactly what we need to do now to get through our treatments and restore our health. Thank you for being there for us.

That said, being the caregiver can be a very difficult and taxing job. So please take care of yourself too. Eating well, sleep, and exercise are sooooo important to keeping you healthy and in the best frame of mind as you give, give, and give more to this person you love.
There are many resources to help you. To get you started, we’ve listed a few below. Just remember, you are important and have a BIG job, so give care to yourself as well.

 

The bond between Raymon and her husband, Victor, grew even stronger as he helped her beat breast cancer

Resources

The American Cancer Society
has a number of services available for caregivers.
www.acs.org | 1.800.227.2345

Cleaning For A Reason
offers free professional housecleaning where available to improve the lives of women undergoing treatment for cancer.
www.cleaningforareason.org

Lotsa Helping Hands
enables family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to coordinate assistance during times of need using a private, web-based tool.
www.lotsahelpinghands.com

Men Against Breast Cancer
educates and empowers men to be effective caregivers.
www.menagainstbreastcancer.org | 1.866.547.6222

Mothers Supporting Daughters with Breast Cancer
offers guidance to mothers whose daughters
have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
www.mothersdaughters.org | 1.410.778.1982

CaringBridge
Provides free website based personal journal to keep connected with family and friends and give updates without having to answer individual emails and phone calls.
www.caringbridge.org

Kids Konnected
provides assistance to children whose parents
have been diagnosed with cancer.
www.kidskonnected.org | 1.800.899.2866

Cancer Really Sucks
is a website designed by teens and for teens
to help them cope with a parent’s cancer.
www.cancerreallysucks.org