If you have a loved one who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, you probably want to help out as much as you can. But you may worry about what exactly and how much you can do.

You don't want to be a bother or give your loved one something else to worry about. You want to be a solid support, who knows how to be there without even having to be called upon.

Lucky you. There are tons of ways you can offer your support.

First: Find Out How Much Help She Wants and Needs

Remember, you want to help her on her terms, not yours. She may feel as if her life is spiraling out of control already, so it's important to let her know through your words and actions that this is not the case.

Always ask for permission before:

  • Visiting
  • Giving advice
  • Asking questions

Source: American Society for Clinical Oncology

Define Your Role on Her Breast Cancer Support Team

Think about your personal strengths. Are you particularly good at keeping people up-to-date via phone calls and email? Or maybe you're more of a hands-on person who would rather spend time cleaning and organizing?

Your answer can help you define your role on her support team.

The Director

This team member:

  • Lives with or near the patient
  • Goes to her appointments with her
  • Takes a big picture view of her treatment plan and needs like health insurance, time off work, doctor's appointments and medication

If you take on the director role, you'll be responsible for record keeping. That means you need to have files that contain information on:

  • Which tests and procedures were done, and when
  • Names and doses of medication, as well as how often they're taken
  • Questions that need to be answered at the next doctor's appointment

Source: National Cancer Institute The Socializer

This person:

  • Sends out regular updates to people who are concerned
  • Checks the patient's email and manages her social media accounts
  • Stays in touch with the patient's employer
  • Sends out thank you notes

In addition to keeping others in the loop, the socializer's job is to help your friend maintain some semblance of normalcy in her life through communication.

That means calling, emailing and texting her regularly. Let her know that she doesn't have to respond right away.

Source: American Society for Clinical Oncology

The Organizer

This support person:

  • Helps with daily responsibilities, such as cooking and cleaning
  • Pays bills
  • Helps take care of kids and pets

If you take on the role of organizer in your friend or loved one's breast cancer support team, your responsibilities may include everything from getting the mail and taking out the garbage to scheduling time for fun, like ordering takeout and watching a movie.

Source: American Society for Clinical Oncology

Tips to Keep in Mind

As a caregiver, it's also important to take time to make sure you're doing okay. People who care for cancer patients—especially terminal cases—often suffer from depression and express guilt over feeling they did not do enough to relieve their loved one's pain, according to a July 2014 article in Oncology Nursing Forum.

And don't let cancer and your role on the support team get in the way of what matters most: your friendship. Treat your friend the same as usual, as much as you can.

For more information about EIRMC's Cancer Center, and for additional resources, check out EIRMC's website.

What are some ways you can think of to help a loved one who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer?