Even the most sympathetic individuals, the ones who always seem to know the right thing to say, can find themselves at a loss for words at times, especially if finding out someone close to them was diagnosed with cancer.
Breast Cancer deaths have decreased by 40% in the last 10 years, partly due to early detection and improved treatments. But hearing a loved one say the four words "I have breast cancer" is still hard to assimilate and comprehend.
We’ve set a few wordings below on what to say to a close one with Breast Cancer to showcase support in such delicate circumstances.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
You might believe that if a friend tells you they have breast cancer, they will want to talk about it. The truth is that they might not. They could simply be informing you. Perhaps they've been talking about it with doctors all day and don't want to talk about it. They could still be internalizing and processing the massive amount of medical information they receive in the first few days. If they refuse to discuss it, don’t take it personally and leave the door open to check in later.
“I’m here for you. I’m listening.”
It's okay to feel pressured and not find the right words to say, but sometimes it's best to let your friend do the talking. Everyone wants to feel heard and know that there is someone on the other end of the line who can support them. Sometimes, all you must do is lend an ear. This helps purge all these feelings in a powerful way.
“How can I help?”
A breast cancer diagnosis can completely affect a person’s normal routine. They certainly have to miss work for doctor's appointments. They may be too tired from treatments to run errands, care for children, or even drive. Everything can seem overwhelming. They may feel paralyzed, unsure of how to cope, and wondering how they are going to get everything done. Knowing someone on your side is so comforting especially if their world appears to be collapsing.
“That sounds like a good decision!”
Perhaps your friend chose a doctor who has received mixed reviews or who is not the best in the field. When this happens, keep it to yourself and support your friend’s choices even if they differ from what you think is right. If you've had breast cancer before and are willing to share recommendations and experiences, it's best to put the ball in your friend's court. Allow them to process things at their own pace and take their own decisions. You can say to them 'Well, I understand what you're going through, and if you want to talk through my experience, I'm here for you.’ You don't know what stage of grief they're in, so it's all about being compassionate and mindful.