As most of you probably know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This annual campaign was started to spread awareness about this awful disease. It is meant to offer information as well as support to those affected by breast cancer. It is also a great way raise money for research as to what causes it and the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. What you may not know is it is the 2nd most common cancer found in women (skin cancer is the first.) Sadly, approximately 1 in 8 U.S. women will get breast cancer, with almost 1/4 million new cases diagnosed each year. My mom was one of these statistics. On Easter Sunday in 1999, after we had our family meal, mom announced her doctor found a lump and it was diagnosed as breast cancer. Little did we know the next 20 weeks would be a journey none of us would ever forget. It is one I hope none of you ever have to go through. From someone who has been through this disease with a loved one, I wanted to share some tips on how you can support a loved one who has been diagnosed as well.
6 Ways To Support A Loved One With Breast Cancer
- Communicate: I think the most important part of mom’s experience with breast cancer was her ability to be completely open, honesty and often frank about her diagnosis, treatment and recovery. This helped all of us be able to ask questions of mom as well as her medical team. It was very comforting to be armed with so much knowledge about her breast cancer.
- Listen: This is a very scary disease. Mom was terrified as were all of us kids. Some days, all mom wanted was to have someone there to listen to her vent. There were days when she was mad, sad, scared and everything in between and she needed to get that off her chest.
- Be Helpful: With a breast cancer diagnosis comes a lot of doctors appointments, fittings for wigs, shopping for special bras and so much more. Mom was completely overwhelmed with all of the errands she had to run that was associated with her breast cancer. My brothers and sisters and I along with mom’s friends made a schedule of all of her appointments and we signed up to take her. This was a huge help. We also helped mom with her meals and cleaning her apartment, so she didn’t have to worry about any of that either.
- Keep A Sense of Humor: We are a family who laughs…a lot! We had to keep a sense of humor about mom’s breast cancer or we would have gone crazy. One of the funniest was when my bother offers to pick up a package for mom. He was getting it out of the bag to show her what he had and to make sure it was the correct item. I wish you could have seen his face when he opened the bag to see a false breast in a box! Mom had a single mastectomy, so she had to have this to even things out. It was hilarious! Another funny was when my daughter Caitlin got into mom’s wig stash. She walked around for an entire day telling everyone she was Grammy! SO cute!
- Be Affectionate: Many people dealing with breast cancer can get depressed and tend to try and isolate. Be sure to offer your physical as well as emotional support. A gentle touch on the arm or a quick hug can go a very long way. Remember to focus on the person and not the disease.
- Be Supportive: One promise we made to mom was to support her in her disease. This meant attending her doctor’s appoints, going to her support groups and walking each year in the Susan G. Komen walk for breast cancer. Here in Tennessee, ours was 10/24, which is also my daughter’s birthday.
One of the hardest things for mom was dealing with her insurance while she was battling her breast cancer. With breast cancer patients paying out of pocket over $6,5k with employer-sponsored health insurance, you can imagine how financially devastating this disease can be. That is why early detection is key. Breast cancers that are found because they are causing symptoms tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast.Although mom had a mammogram in July and a small lump was detected, she didn’t see her doctor for almost 3 months. She was scared to death and didn’t want to face the reality of a breast cancer diagnosis. Had mom seen her doctor when the lump was found, things would have been very different. Mom almost had to file bankruptcy for all the medical bills she incurred. The American Cancer Society recommends women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional preferably every 3 years and should be doing a breast self-exam (BSE) starting in their 20s.
With it being open enrollment season, now is the time to check your current policy and see what employer-sponsored benefits you have. If breast cancer is detected early, the survival rate can be as high as 99 percent. Unfortunately, as my mom found out, expensive treatment regimens can follow that diagnosis. With Aflac’s cash benefits they can help policyholders pay those astronomical out-of-pocket costs associated with cancer treatments. Many people may not know that a cancer insurance policy can be used for things other than treatment. It can also cover things like extra child care, transportation to and from the doctor or treatments, and everyday living expenses, such as mortgage payments or groceries. I can say from experience, mom would much rather have concentrated on her recovery and not her finances. With the Aflac cancer insurance policy, she could have done just that. With the Aflac One Day Pay℠ initiative, they can process, approve and pay eligible claims in just a day, giving you the cash you need faster than ever before. Watch this video and she how the Aflac cancer insurance policy made a difference in Gloria’s life.
For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Aflac will be teaming up with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) for its second annual “This Duck Wears Pink” campaign. Aflac will be selling a variety of campaign-related merchandise including the plush duck, hats and a breast cancer ribbon pin, with all the net proceeds going to the AACR for the specific purpose of funding research aimed at finding a cure for breast cancer. Aflac supports the groundbreaking work of the AACR – the first and largest cancer research organization in the world with a membership of more than 35,000 professionals residing in 101 countries working on the front lines of the effort to eradicate cancer. The AACR backs every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research. You can donate and shop for merchandise here. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Do you know someone who has/had breast cancer? Will you share who and which of these tips you would find most helpful?