22 ways to help a friend with breast cancer

(Anne Krueger/ Health.com) — Whether your friend or family member is newly diagnosed or in the midst of treatment, she’s unlikely to be wowed by vague offers or having to do your thinking for you. She has enough on her mind; she has cancer. She may not want that tuna casserole or to hear about what treatment your Aunt Phyllis had either.

So how can you help? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. That’s why we turned to survivors for our list of support dos and don’ts. Our patient-generated advice is sorted into three stages—Diagnosis, Surgery & Treatment, and Recovery—identified by Maureen Broderick, a licensed clinical social worker who has worked with cancer patients and run cancer support groups. Here’s what you need to know.

Learn to listen

“One of the most important ways a friend supported me was by listening to me as I decided what to do,” says Orinda, Calif. writer Victoria Irwin, 57, who had a lumpectomy and radiation earlier this year. “When I was in decision-making mode, it’s all I could think about or talk about. My friend listened to me over and over again. I think she learned more than she ever wanted to, and she helped me formulate the questions I needed to ask at doctor’s appointments,” she says. “She didn’t give advice, but acknowledged the difficulty of the situation. That listening was the most helpful thing she could have done.” (…)

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