When someone is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), the most advanced stage of breast cancer, it can be overwhelming not only for the woman living with the disease, but also for her caregivers and loved ones. In addition to wanting to know more about their treatment or what kind of symptoms they will experience, someone diagnosed with MBC may also have questions about how to talk to their loved ones about their diagnosis. Conversely, caregivers may be wondering what exactly their loved one is going through and how they can provide support.
If someone you love has been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer
If a loved one has MBC, you probably want to help but may not know what to do. Here are some suggestions for how you can support your loved one through their MBC journey.
1. Be a good listener
Your loved one may rightfully be consumed with thoughts of her diagnosis, and trying to make the right decisions about treatments. Do your best to be a good listener by letting her talk about whatever is on her mind. Try to refrain from giving advice unless asked, and be ready to support whatever decision your loved one makes.
2. Help with research
Dealing with cancer can mean learning lots of medical terminology, and talking about things most of us don’t usually think about. Research the disease so you and your loved one can understand the best options for her specific disease journey.
3. Be active in appointments
Offer to go along on doctor visits. Take notes so your loved one can review what was said and doesn’t have to rely on her own memory to remember the details of stressful and complicated conversations.
You can also help make sure your loved one remembers to ask all the questions she brought to the visit, and note any other resources she can use to get more information, or to follow up after the appointment.
4. Help with daily activities
It may be natural for your loved one to try to keep doing all the day-to-day activities she has always done. Since it will be difficult to maintain the energy needed to complete these tasks, you can help by offering to do household chores, pick up prescriptions, do the grocery shopping, or even just drive her to the store so she can save her energy.
Dealing with insurance companies and doctor’s offices can also be very confusing and often requires a lot of paperwork. Offer to help keep track of appointments, bills, insurance claims and payments, if you feel comfortable.
5. Provide emotional support
Dealing with MBC can be an emotional roller coaster. But that doesn’t mean everything has to be serious. Give her a lift with a humorous card or by remembering funny stories or good times you’ve spent together. And when she needs to cry, let her release her fears, knowing you are there to listen and support her.
6. Educate yourself about MBC
A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer can be very overwhelming, and it can be difficult to find the necessary information to help your loved one make informed decisions. Learn as much as you can about the disease so you can understand what her diagnosis means or how to help her actively manage her condition. In addition to understanding the disease, learn about the treatments available to your loved one, including the potential schedule for treatment, possible side effects, and what you can do to help her take care of herself.
7. Take care of yourself
In order to be the best possible caregiver, it is important for you to take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating and sleeping well, and give yourself physical and emotional breaks to recharge so you can be there when your loved one needs you most.
A diagnosis of MBC is a much different experience than that of someone diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and it can be challenging to find information tailored to your loved one’s unique needs.
Reviewed November 12, 2015
By Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith