The rush of emotions immediately following a breast cancer diagnosis can be too much to handle, even for the strongest individual. Fortunately for our patients, we’ve built an extensive support network – between your plastic surgeon, the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC staff, and the tools provided by the Patient Empowerment Program – to alleviate as much of the accompanying anxiety as possible and guide them through the breast reconstruction process.
One of the ways we offer guidance is through the Sisterhood of Support (SOS) groups. Processing all the emotions one is confronted with is an important part of coping and ultimately recovering from breast cancer treatment and diagnosis. While family, partners, and friends can offer tremendous support, women frequently find themselves wearing a mask to protect those around them. The groups offer an opportunity for support from others who are going through a similar process.
A popular topic that surfaces during SOS groups is how friends respond after one receives a breast cancer diagnosis. Frequently, our women are bowled over by the kindness of mere acquaintances and, occasionally, disappointed by those closest to them. It is not unusual for any of us on the outside looking in to grapple with how to best be available or share words of comfort. What one might intend or perceive as being supportive, can be experienced differently when you’re in the throes of processing the diagnosis and moving through the treatment.
A great story was shared during one of yesterday’s SOS groups. A beautiful young woman, sporting a baseball cap over her hairless head, talked of her experience with chemotherapy and the incredible support she is receiving from a family member. This family member continually asks what she can do to help on the days of chemo treatment and the young woman replies, “Just bring a chicken so my family will have dinner.” However, with each treatment she instead receives snuggly gifts such as a soft blanket, cuddly pillow or lovely scents. This scenario continues to play out and, unfortunately, with all the intentions of kindness, our patient never gets what she really wants - for her relative to just bring a chicken!
We tell our Sisters to be sure to ask for what you want and what might be most helpful to you throughout your treatments; perhaps your request will be heard and it will be a win/win situation – you get what you need and someone has the opportunity to do something meaningful for you.
Tips for patient’s loved ones:
A lot of times you don’t need to say anything - sometimes nothing said is the best medicine. Perhaps a simple touch or hug can be most meaningful.
Just bring the chicken without being asked.
Tips for patients:
Assess what your needs are, and hand over some of the responsibilities that will deplete your energy.
Appoint a Care Team Captain to organize your Care Team and act as the family reporter, so you and your family don’t have to hear the story over and over again. It can be emotionally exhausting to repeat the story of your diagnosis and condition.
Put energy into something that has meaning - specify exactly what you want. Make clear communications about your intentions and desires.
Have your Captain post a calendar of things you need to help you conserve your energy. You need all your energy to focus on dealing with and recovering from treatment. Your loved ones can sign up for various tasks on the calendar - meals, errands, shuttle service, you name it...
Clinical Director, Patient Empowerment Program