Recognise that, for you as a partner/family member/friend, this is going to be difficult for you too – look after yourselves and accept help from others, don’t feel you have to be strong all of the time.
Try to find support for yourself as well. Local support groups and others you may know in the same/similar situation can be a great source of comfort. If you are unsure where to go, your local cancer center will be able to offer advice about what is available in your area.
You are not on your own if you feel that you don’t know what to say.
Sometimes, the small things are the most meaningful.
Sometimes, simply listening is the best thing you can do.
The information below is by no means an exhaustive list and may not be the same for every woman. The information is taken from some of the women we support but also from women we know who have had a diagnosis of cancer at some stage in their lives.
- Treat her as you did before- she is still the same person-you don’t change as a person because you get cancer, however her needs may vary.
- Don’t avoid the subject- this is very real and it needs to be acknowledged.
- Don’t go over the top with sympathy (apart from when wanted- some days she may just want lots of hugs and kindness).
- Offer practical support, for example- Doing the ironing, cooking a meal, taking the child/ children out for an hour, doing the school run, grocery shopping.
- Develop a network of family/friends to go to/ take to appointments.
- Ask, there may be something specific which will be helpful. Be prepared though that she may say she hasn’t a clue how you can help.
- Keep lines of communication open and recognise that each day could be different in terms of mood, energy, needs.
- Offer a listening ear (if needed/wanted). “I’m here if you need me.”
- Texts just to say you’re thinking of her. “Sorry to hear you’re going through this.”
- Be honest, acknowledge how awful it must be but then offer support.
- Keep inviting her out as usual even if it’s a treatment week- she may still want to go!
- Laugh together- things don’t stop being funny because you have cancer.
- If she says “I’m fine”- it may mean,” I’m not fine but at this time I don’t want to talk about how I feel”. Respect this and accept this may change at any time.
Respect that her diagnosis is just that and don’t share this with anyone without her permission.