How to Talk to a Loved One with Breast Cancer

October 26, 2023
How to Talk to a Loved One with Breast Cancer 

Breast cancer can be emotionally and physically draining for both the patient and the care provider.  Grappling with a new diagnosis in an elderly loved one can be especially daunting, and sometimes family and friends find it difficult to talk about the cancer to their loved one.

“I think the most important thing to do is show empathy and lend a listening ear”, says Susan Nimnuan,
Vice President of BrightStar Care of Naples/Ft. Myers. “It gives the elder patient validation in how they are feeling,” she says. Here are some additional tips from Susan:

Give them your full attention. We are all conditioned to multi-task in our busy lives, but this is a great time to show you care by giving your loved one’s undivided attention when talking about their illness. This goes a long way in showing you truly care.

Avoid vocal empathy. Saying you know how they must feel can be disingenuous since you most likely cannot know how they actually feel from the cancer.  Instead, it is better to offer validation by saying things like “that must have been very hard for you” or “I can see how that would make you feel frustrated”. This approach shows you empathize with a situation you personally may not have ever experienced.

Take cues from them.  By observing their body language and mood, you’ll be better at knowing when your loved one wants to talk and when they don’t. It’s important that you don’t try to force them to open up; rather, let them know you are there to support them in anyway they need.

Above all, Susan says, by letting them know you will be there to support them, they'll feel a stronger sense of confidence and wellbeing.