top of page

How to help when someone you care about is diagnosed with breast cancer

Do you know someone who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer? Statistically, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, so, unfortunately, there’s a good chance that if you don’t already know someone who’s been diagnosed, you might in the future.

One extremely common message that I receive is “my _______ was just diagnosed with breast cancer. What can I do or get for her?” I've asked this question a few times myself. It’s hard feeling helpless when someone you care about is going through a crisis and if you’re anything like me, you may get stuck overthinking things and even end up with analysis paralysis…doing nothing because you just couldn’t figure out what to do!

Don’t become paralyzed from not knowing what to do — just SHOW UP. Show up with food... show up to take the kids to a movie… show up to do laundry... show up to clean the kitchen counters… show up to watch tv with her… show up with groceries… show up to pick kids up from school or take them to activities and video them for her so she doesn’t feel she’s missing out on things… show up with a playlist to listen to together or just play for her if she wants to be alone… whatever it looks like for your relationship, just show up for them.

People often have the best intentions and the gesture is BEYOND appreciated—- but it is possible to receive too many blankets or socks. I encourage you to offer support in ways that could greatly benefit her or her family. Cancer is expensive… fatigue is real…mom guilt happens...nausea and sickness is usually a huge part of her day…

Another thing to consider is that even when active treatment is finished and she seems to have made it through to remission, she will still have her share of struggles! (If you haven’t read my last blog, “the aftermath of breast cancer, check it out to know what I mean!), so continue to show up for her in the aftermath of breast cancer… continue to check in on her… continue to help her out with her kids and daily life duties. This could mean the world to her. 💛

Now- with all this said, please remember that everyone is unique in how they feel, react, respond, grieve, how private/public they want to keep their journey and how they prefer to be

helped. Be respectful of her preferences and don’t be judgmental if it’s a different response than you would have or think you would have. Crisis can change how we think, act or feel and that is totally ok!

With the help of other survivors, I’ve created a list on how to help when someone you care about has been diagnosed with breast cancer:

1. Organizational tools

  • My sister made me a binder that helped me organize all of my paperwork, appointments, information, etc. and it helped me stay organized when my mind was going a million different directions! (This is what inspired the Breast Cancer Binder that we offer to survivors!)

2. Help keep life as normal as possible … especially for kids

  • My family and friends stepped up big time taking care of my kids! They took them to the zoo, parks, had sleepovers, did crafts, cooked, bathed, etc. etc.

3. Cleaning

  • You would arrange for a cleaning person to come in or even help her yourself to clean her house once or on a recurring schedule during treatments -- this was a super common response!

  • It doesn’t need to be an “official cleaning”... just showing up and cleaning or organizing anything that would help her feel better!

4. MEALS (this was the most common answer! Most of us don’t feel like cooking every night as it is, but women especially don’t want to cook with the effects of cancer treatments or surgeries! This also ensures she’ll have food to eat if she lives alone or it takes the load off of a spouse/family/roommate who may be taking on way more than normal.)

  • Create a meal train

  • Make meals for the family

  • Bring over meals that can be kept in the freezer and taken out when needed

  • Gift cards for local restaurants that deliver or for delivery services like Door Dash, Grub Hub or Uber Eats

5. Gifts

  • Wigs

  • Hats

  • Scarves

  • Blankets

  • Socks (with sayings on them like “if you can read this, I’m kicking cancer’s butt”)

  • Creams for radiation (like Eucerin cream with 10% urea)

  • Gift cards

  • Snacks for chemo (everyone’s taste is different -- oatmeal and peanut butter were two things that helped settle my nausea, but ask her what she likes at the moment -- be aware that this may change daily through treatments! Also, try to limit the sugar and offer healthy options as this will only help her progress <3

  • Gum

  • Biotene mouthwash (helps with mouth sores during chemo)

  • Chapstick

  • Reusable water bottle

  • Mastectomy pillow (nursing pillows also work great)

  • Wedge pillow (for after surgery)

  • Robe / shirts with drain pockets

  • Adult coloring books

  • Magazines