Breast Cancer: 10 Tips for Relatives and Loved Ones 

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Following a breast cancer diagnosis, it is not only the person with breast cancer who may be experiencing many emotions. It’s normal for you, as a loved one, to feel distressed and helpless, and to want to do your best to support the person with breast cancer. 

Here are some tips to do your best to support the person with the disease, but also to help you better manage and understand your different emotions:

1. Laissez-vous du temps 

First and foremost, give yourself time to accept your loved one’s diagnosis and to adapt to the situation. Remember that everyone reacts as they can, it’s important to allow yourself to experience your emotions.

2. Préparez-vous à des changements  

Following a breast cancer diagnosis, the person’s behaviour or appearance may change, and the dynamics of the relationship may change. Prepare yourself mentally for this potential change so that you can better manage it once you are faced with it.

3. Informez-vous sur le cancer du sein  

You may not have experienced cancer before, and you may not understand the realities that it brings to a person’s life.  You can start by learning about breast cancer to better understand the impact it can have. Click here to learn more about this disease.

4. Demandez-lui si vous pouvez l’aider  

Whether it’s for administrative tasks, going to medical appointments, taking over household chores, or just talking, the needs of the person with breast cancer can be numerous. Ask them what kind of help they need and see if you are able to help them. Try to be realistic about the amount of time and energy you have to give, avoid creating expectations. A good tip would be to focus on what you can do and do it consistently. That’s the most important thing!

Some people with breast cancer may find it hard to ask, and that is normal. Don’t hesitate to offer specific help, for example: “I’m available tonight, do you want me to pick up the kids from school?”, “I’m going to the pharmacy, what can I get you?”, “I made some lasagna, can I bring you some tonight?”, etc. This avoids leaving the responsibility of always “asking” to the diagnosed person.

If other members of the family and friends are willing to help, organize yourselves and communicate , take turns in the tasks and thus better coordinate help. Being several people to support your loved one is a real plus!

5. Respectez ses décisions 

In order to feel respected and considered, your loved one will appreciate that you ask his or her opinion and that you respect their decisions. Even if you really want to help, it is important that they feel free to accept or not what you have to offer! Don’t take it personally if your help is refused, id the person decides to be alone or doesn’t want to talk. Remember that the important thing is to listen to their wishes and respect their pace. Let them know that you are still available if needed. 

6. Soyez présent tout simplement  

Don’t be afraid of not saying the right things, or not doing the right thing: just do your best. Be present in the ill person’s life: remember that the most important thing is that they feel supported and listened to. Make sure they know they are important to you, that you are thinking of them, and that you are always ready to listen.  There may be times when the persondoesn’t feel like talking, and your presence may be comforting. When you can’t be there physically, consider writing a message or calling.  

If the person decides to confide in you, listen without judging, allow them to be themselves and express all kinds of emotions. Don’t feel obligated to respond, as the person is not looking for solutions from you. Simply offer a listening ear and acknowledge the importance of their feelings and concerns.

If you are comfortable and it’s appropriate, a warm gesture can be more comforting than words! Small gestures or touches can also show your support and put a smile on your loved one’s face. For example, you could leave a note in an unexpected place, offer a personalized or useful gift such as loundging clothes, or vouchers for everyday products or services.

7. Désamorcez les malaises 

Sometimes it’s normal to feel unsettled or unsure of what to say when faced with the distress of a loved one with breast cancer. Don’t pressure yourself and don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know what to say. Accept the moments of silence, rather than trying to say something at all costs. If you feel too upset, ask for a moment. Despite all good intentions, it can be awkward. Warn the person that this could happen against your will and invite them to tell you if this is the case. They will appreciate your consideration of their feelings.

8. Gardez une certaine normalité  

In order not to perceive your loved one as “only breast cancer,” you can, for example:

  • Talk about things other than the disease;
  • Suggest fun activities, taking into account their energy level and routine;
  • Keep them informed about what is going on and include them in regular projects/events so that they feels involved in work or in the group of friends;
  • Help them maintain an active role in your relationship by asking for advice and letting them set their boundaries.

9. Après les traitements  

Even though they may seem to be getting better, the side effects and the need for support and companionship do not necessarily end when treatment is over. The recovery and rebuilding process, both physical and emotional, can be long and even in remission, the person may feel tired, sad, alone or lost. Try to maintain the connection and continue to offer regular emotional support.

10. Prenez soin de vous 

Those close to a person with breast cancer should also be mindful of their own needs and emotions! Give yourself breaks and respite time to recharge and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it too. You could talk to other members of the person’s entourage, a health professional, support groups for loved ones, or even call us at 1-855-561-ROSE so that a member of our team can answer you confidentially.

If you have any doubts or questions about breast cancer before, during or after diagnosis or treatment, call us at 1-855-561-ROSE. We are here for you.  


National Comprehensive Cancer Network