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Breast Cancer in women

Sources of support for breast cancer

Family were often a great source of support during and after illness, and several women said how certain family members or relatives had encouraged them. One young single mother, whose family lived overseas, described how her daughter became her main source of support. Other women discussed the support they had received from siblings, adult children and grandchildren.

 

Explains how her daughter supported her through her illness.

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Explains how her daughter supported her through her illness.

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 38
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I talked to her and she received it very well and said' "You will be okay." So she gave me more courage to fight. Yes she was.

She became so mature, where you wake up early in the morning before going to school when I've been in bed sleeping, thinking she's preparing to go to school. She'll go and take a bath and come and make breakfast for me and bring me breakfast in bed. And sometimes when I have to do laundry she will be there doing everything with me.

And there was a day that I slept and when I woke up she had prepared mash potatoes and different vegetables and sauce. I was surprised you know because those are the things she doesn't do. Cleaning the house before I wake up because she's an early person, so I was really surprised.
 

A few women described how their illness had brought them closer as a family or improved relationships between different members. One woman explained how family rallied around and helped find information about breast cancer. Some women also discussed the emotional and practical support they had received from partners.

 

Explains that her family were a great source of support and how she became closer to her father.

Explains that her family were a great source of support and how she became closer to her father.

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 24
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Yeah. I think I got through it because my family is great and great company.

My mum I've always been close to, and dad, you know, we've been close, but suddenly I was really, you know, right there all the time. So I was, I was just like a child again, like a hundred per cent dependent, particularly during those weeks when I was really ill.

And, you know, through all my teenage years I'd always been dashing off with my friends and everything, and suddenly I was at home a lot, all the time and just learnt to appreciate, you know, their company really.

Just sitting in at night watching telly with them and everything, which I would never have done before. And I really enjoyed it and I love my parents' company now.

I'm quite happy to go and sit round with them for the evening or afternoon and it's really, really nice going away on my own with my dad. I would never have done that before, that was lovely.
 
 

Describes how her family supported her and helped her to seek out more information about breast...

Describes how her family supported her and helped her to seek out more information about breast...

Age at interview: 56
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 54
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There were some friends who scuttled away and I never heard anything from them because they couldn't cope with it. It was frightening, it was embarrassing.

But my son and my immediate family were absolutely wonderful. My daughter-in-law bought for me two of the brilliant books that I read and found such a help. And my son immediately gave me crash courses on how to use the internet. I didn't have a computer and you might say that the cancer experience has switched me on technologically-speaking.

He took me to a video [internet] caf' and we went into the videos, and I wanted to look up intra-operative radiotherapy because it had been mentioned to me and there were reams of stuff on it. There's loads of stuff on tamoxifen, whatever you want to know you can find out.

Some women said that friends had helped and encouraged them throughout their illness. A few women mentioned that, although some friends found their diagnosis difficult to cope with, others became closer and more understanding. Neighbours were also an important source of support for some, and several women recalled how neighbours had given practical help with shopping and cooking.

 

Describes becoming closer to one of her friends, who supported her throughout her illness.

Describes becoming closer to one of her friends, who supported her throughout her illness.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 64
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You find out, without a doubt, you find out who your friends are. Well I found out who my friends were, definitely.

And became closer to some people because of it, particularly my friend who was here most of the time. She was the right personality, she did not panic, she did not encourage me to get morbid but on the other hand she didn't push me either.

And we did things, like we went out and she went through most of it with me, in fact all of it with me.
 
 

Ingrid had a lot of support from someone she paid to help with household chores when she was...

Ingrid had a lot of support from someone she paid to help with household chores when she was...

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 58
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Something else that’s just dawned on me, you know, running your household. But there I was very, very lucky, very lucky indeed. If I hadn’t had Jane [domestic help], who has kept this household ticking over for quite a while now, but especially over the last two years. And she was also at the other of the phone if I needed her at any time. And did extras, and she would come in if I needed meals during the, and again because she’s somebody we pay, you don’t feel quite the same way as if it was friends. It’s, yes she is also a friend but anything that she, you don’t have this feeling well of reciprocity, the issue of reciprocity, however can I make up for what they have done?

And so it was easier to go for actually, to somebody who was paid to help than to have friends and family where it really is my goodness, it is stressful for them to see and cope with, how can you ever every repay? And there to have Jane [domestic help] who we paid to help, and she was happy to help and was absolutely wonderful, in her taking over the running of the household, keeping the household tidy, doing all the washing. All those sorts of things.

A religious faith or belief in God was invaluable to some women, who described how their faith helped them cope with their illness and the comfort it provided them.

 

Explains how her faith in God helped her through her illness.

Explains how her faith in God helped her through her illness.

Age at interview: 47
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 43
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I am a committed Christian and I prayed about it. And I'd no sort of, I don't know, I didn't pray for healing or anything I just prayed for God's peace to get me through it. I just wanted peace.

I actually don't know how people cope with this sort of thing without a faith, whatever religion you are. I'm a committed Christian.

And in my lowest times God has been there and I've been able to talk to him. I've been able to lean on him. Scriptures have just come out at me, you know, when I've read my Bible.

Things that I've read hundreds of times have just, just come out at me and the promises of God, you know' "I will never leave you or forsake you. You have a future. I have plans for you." All these sorts of things.

And it is my faith that's kept me going and the prayers of people, you know, when I go for chemotherapy, they all know when I'm going.

And I, it's almost physical, I can feel being uplifted in prayer.
 
 

Explains how her faith as a Catholic helped her cope with breast cancer.

Explains how her faith as a Catholic helped her cope with breast cancer.

Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 58
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You know so for the whole day you might be alright, you feel alright. You feel free, you feel happy. And then the next day it just comes back to you' "Yes, I've got cancer."

And you go' "Oh God, why don't it go away?" But well that's life, you've got to live with that.

Yes, how did you get through the bad days?

I said my prayers. I read my Bible. I've got different little books from, church books you know because I'm a Catholic. So I've got different little books. I read them, said my Rosary. Sometimes I even said my Rosary going to and from the hospital. Because that sort of, once you say your prayers, you feel released like. To me, I don't know about other people, but saying my prayers relaxes me.

And before I went into surgery, the day before, I received Holy Communion. So I know I was prepared for everything, for anything that came. Thank God it came out alright.

Many women discussed the information and support given by breast care nurses, and some had contacted them for advice and reassurance after treatment. Other women praised the professional counselling they’d received to help them discuss and understand their feelings.

 

Describes the support and encouragement she received from her Health Centre nurse.

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Describes the support and encouragement she received from her Health Centre nurse.

Age at interview: 75
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 68
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I went to the health centre one morning and I got a wonderful nurse called [name] and she not only dressed my wounds but she reassured me.

She told me everything about, you know, how I should feel and don't worry if I feel depressed or tired. Because I did feel tired because of doing all the housework, you know.

And she said' "Well, you know, just say you're not going to do it," and oh she was absolutely marvellous. And every time I see her now I think oh, you know, I remember that time because she was the only one really who gave me help, encouragement. And I was always glad when it was her that I was going to, (then eventually I did get a nurse to come here to do it).
 

Other women with breast cancer were also often an important source of advice, information and emotional support. Some women discussed the sense of fellowship or bond they felt with other cancer patients, due to from their shared experience.

 

Describes her sense of sistership with other breast cancer patients.

Describes her sense of sistership with other breast cancer patients.

Age at interview: 51
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 48
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I've found a lot of support from other women. I found there are an awful lot of brave and quite wonderful women out there. Actually I think breast cancer does help you develop, and it might be a funny thing to say but, a great feeling of sistership with other women.

You know there's such a good feeling between women who've had or got breast cancer, and you can all relate to each other and it's, you look out for each other. And that's really, really nice.

You know, I'll go and meet somebody who I know who's had breast cancer' "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine. Are you alright?", "Yeah." "When are you going again?", "Oh I've got to go- - -" You know and it's, it's a real comradeship, which is nice. It's lovely, an affinity. Not brought about by something very nice but it's still an affinity.

That's all really.
 

Some women discussed feeling unsupported after completing treatment, and a few stressed the importance of discussing concerns and anxieties with others who had been through a similar experience. Support groups sometimes met this need, and one woman explained how joining a support group helped her to cope better both with her illness and her life generally (see 'Support groups').

 

Explains how joining a support group helped her to cope better with her illness and improved her...

Explains how joining a support group helped her to cope better with her illness and improved her...

Age at interview: 48
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 45
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After I had my operation I came home, and then I had that scare six months later. I was really so depressed and down. I felt as if the cancer was controlling me. Iended up with anti-depressant tablets because I was just sitting, and the next thing I was bursting out crying.

But as I say with the help of the support group and day centre it's just, it's changed my life.

You just need somebody to talk to because then you realise that you're not the only that's going through this, because there's thousands of women every day.

I was saying the other day I thought this is the best thing, it sounds stupid, but it's the best thing that's happened to me because I really meet people now. I have a social life.

My life has just completely changed from what it was and, I don't know it just is, my life is completely different to what it used to be before I had breast cancer.
 

Healthtalk has a whole site on breast cancer in men, for more information see 'Sources of support for men with breast cancer'.


Donate to healthtalk.org
 

Last reviewed August 2018.
Last updated August 2018.

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