Maybe it’s mandatory, but when someone in the church returns home following a surgery, the women of the congregation seem to always come together to provide casseroles for the recovering patient.
While meals delivered to the front door is welcome and provides food for the rest of the family while she is recovering, supporting those who’ve had breast cancer surgery involves more than just your famous chicken casserole.
Sometimes, the cancer is caught early and the surgery procedure is medically classified as somewhat minor. Other times, a partial or complete mastectomy is required.
Either way, a woman whose had breast cancer surgery is quite often left feeling as if a part of her femininity has been removed. She is in need of more than food for her body. She also needs encouragement that she has not lost her worth as a woman because of what was removed or scarred in the operating room.
Offer Support as a Co-Survivor
According to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, “Co-survivors can be family members, spouses or partners, friends, health care providers or colleagues. Anyone who is there to lend support from diagnosis through treatment and beyond is considered a co-survivor.” Co-survivors may lend their support in a multitude of ways.
As a friend or family member, some ways to help are to offer to do household chores, hire a maid service, babysit for her children, or run errands. Help drive her to doctor appointments, walk her dog, or mow the lawn. Co-workers and supervisors can offer to help with her workload or clients, and help her to balance her work and recovery schedules. Read this list of tips on how to be a more effective co-survivor for additional ideas on ways to be supportive.
Send Words of Encouragement
Cards are a great way to remind a friend or family member that you’re thinking of her without tiring her out with phone calls or visits. Cards with encouraging notes and letting her know that you are praying for her are super nice to receive.
Send notes, flowers, or anything that you think might brighten her day. Be sure to include encouraging scripture, as these can be very encouraging for someone who needs to remain strong in her faith. It gives her something to focus on when she starts to feel discouraged. Some scriptures to include are:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit. —Romans 15:13
“I will no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you.” So that with good courage we say, “The Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?” —Hebrews 13:5b-6
Don’t Get Too Crazy in the Kitchen
The recovering woman may not be able to eat much, and on certain days during treatment, may feel ill. So, provide meals that can be frozen and reheated when needed. Tuck in a restaurant gift card so she can order something for delivery at her convenience.
Of course, one of the best things you can do for her is to pray for her. Set aside a special time each day to lift her up in prayer.
Remember to Check before Dropping by
Call before visiting and ask if she is up for a visit. Don’t get your feelings hurt if she says no. A woman recovering from surgery needs her rest, so respect her sleep time and try to call or stop by during the daytime hours instead of too early or late. Keep your visit brief. A visit to the person’s house may make her feel like she needs to tidy up, and this is extremely difficult when she needs all of her energy for recovery.
Continue Giving Support Well after Surgery
Remember that recovery takes a long time, and often surgery is just the beginning. While a certain amount of recovery time is necessary for the body to heal physically, the emotional toll breast cancer takes on a woman can often last well after. People tend to mean well and are very concerned when the woman is first diagnosed, but as time goes on it’s sometimes easy to forget that she is still in treatment and feeling poorly.
Once she is on her road to recovery, check out your local YMCA. Many offer a workout program for cancer survivors and a close family member. This helps to rebuild muscles while gaining support from others going through similar things.
Continue to be there for her as a friend — a shoulder to cry on and someone to share triumphs and laughter with.