After the shock of the news, comes the realization that a breast cancer diagnosis means a lot more than belligerent cells that defy a normal life cycle. The patient needs help on all levels and so do their families:
- Research support groups. The debate rages on about the benefits of breast cancer support groups. While the jury is out on whether it is beneficial physically, it is definitely beneficial psychologically. But, does your loved one have the energy or wherewithal to locate an appropriate group while adjusting to life post-diagnosis, post-surgery, or pre-treatment or any of the other milestones that go with breast cancer? Help them by presenting them with a short list of appropriate options for possible groups to join. Talk to the group leader and get details on the focus and dynamic of the group. Someone recently diagnosed would be an ill-fit for a group that largely has patients who have had a recurrence.
- Accompany them to doctors or treatment visits. Being forced into ‘the breast cancer life’ is a game changer, but not a happy one like getting married or having a baby. Much of the information coming at the patient is new and coming from a host of health care professionals all of whom speak a language most patients don’t know. Just the information on tumor types, sizes and treatment options alone is overwhelming. Add to it pharmaceutical needs, environmental concerns, and day-to-day survival techniques — well, it’s a lot. Going to the doctor with a loved one can be more than simply driving the car. Go into the exam room, with a pad and pen, take notes and ask questions. Your loved one will appreciate the assistance and having a second set of ears.
- Housecleaning and babysitting. Depending on the severity of treatment, fighting cancer can be a rough stuff. And, by the time one round of chemo or radiation is done and recovered from, its time to do it all again. It is doubtful that anyone will feel like running the vacuum, cleaning the kitchen, or taking the kids to the zoo. Consider scooping up your loved ones kids and taking them to the movies with your family. Or, attend the school play or football game and videotape your love one’s child. Don’t have time? Purchase a housecleaning coupon from an online provider like Groupon or prepay Merry Maids for one whole day or two half-days of cleaning.
- Walk for a cure or support someone who is walking. Support can be in the form of homage or a celebration of life. One common way to do this and contribute toward a cure is to participate in a walk. Typically, walks are 3K events or one- to two-day events. The two most famous are the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the Avon Walk for the Cure. Participants have a choice of walking for one or two days. If you can’t walk, pledge for an individual or team in honor of your loved one fighting the battle.
- Locate or offer financial help.With the loss of income or being underinsured, any financial support can be a godsend. Sure, the cancer exist, but the kids still need shoes and money for field trips, the electric bill still needs to be paid, and the car needs gas for the myriad of medical trips. Also, consider finding institutional help. The American Association for Cancer Research site offers great advice for locating money from pharmaceutical companies, advocacy groups and government entities.