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When Someone You Love is Diagnosed

A diagnosis of breast cancer can be devastating with intense emotions. Your loved one or friend may have feelings that range from fear, anger, and frustration to vulnerability, depression and helplessness. These emotions are normal. Your loved one has been forced to confront the possible loss or change of a breast, the fear of losing her feminine image (or, in the case of male breast cancer, his masculinity), their health, and even their life. It is important that you understand what they may be thinking and feeling.

Suggestions on how to help:

Provide Practical support:

  • Go with them to doctors appointments
  • Coordinate rides to treatment
  • Cook or arrange meal delivery
  • Take care of the children
  • Do the grocery shopping
  • Help with cleaning the house
  • Do the laundry
  • Water the plants
  • Mow the grass
  • Screen telephone calls
  • Handle insurance needs
  • Help care for pets
  • Drive car pool
  • Keep a list of phone calls, gifts, flowers and meals

Provide emotional support:

  • Provide moral support
  • Be a good listener
  • Give lots of hugs
  • Openly share your feelings
  • Be there for them
  • Continue to provide support after treatment is over
  • Respect their need for privacy

Resources for Partners/Spouses

"What's Happening to the Woman We Love", Susan G. Komen for the Cure Booklet

Breast Cancer Husband : How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) during Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond by Marc Silver

Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men by John W. Anderson

Cancer in Two Voices by Sandra Butler and Barbara Rosenblum

Cancer For Two: An Inspiring True Story and Guide for Cancer Patients and Their Partners by Dave Balch

Resources for Children

"What's Happening to Mom?", Susan G. Komen for the Cure Booklet

Michael's Mommy Has Breast Cancer by Lisa Torrey (Picture Book)

Our Family Has Cancer, Too! by Christine Clifford (Chapter Book)

Both Sides Now (Readers Circle) by Ruth Pennebaker (Young Adult)

Breast Cancer:Questions And Answers for Young Women by Carole Vogel (Young Adult)

Copies of the Hurricane Voices Family Reading List are available from DBCC.

Resources On-Line

Circus of Cancer ( - website from Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place , has an excellent section on ways to help a friend or family member with cancer.