Ginette Weiner began her fight against breast cancer in 2008, and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She is a patient at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and under the ongoing care of Donald Northfelt, M.D. She brings a fresh, honest and engaging perspective to patients and their loved ones with the following advice for breast cancer patients and their families.
Advice for Loved Ones
1. Do not tell us cancer or things like it "happen for a reason." A well-meaning family member said this to me shortly after I was first diagnosed. It literally took my breath away, and left me feeling cold and numb. We feel as if we're already being somehow "punished" by the universe as it is. Telling us there is a "reason" we have cancer is not helpful. (Did I get cancer because I'm a bad person?) I don't believe my cancer happened for a "reason." It just happened. Better to say things like, "I'm sorry this happened to you," or "It must feel so unfair, I'm sorry." And leave it at that.
2. Create a safe atmosphere (non-judgmental, non-critical), for us to be allowed and encouraged to vent, rage and share the wide range of feelings we have, some of which may be seen as childish, fearful or irrational. Practice becoming a good listener. Allow for silence. You can silently be there for us sometimes, unconditionally accepting of us. Men often feel they have to help, to "fix it." You don't have to fix it. Being quietly there and letting us know you're there for us for the long haul, regardless of whether we're sad or angry, these things are helpful.