Supporting a Loved One Through Breast Cancer and Chronic Pain

Updated on October 26, 2023

Breast cancer sucks. It brings with it not only the physical and emotional struggles of the diagnosis and treatment but, in many cases, chronic pain. For those who are battling this relentless diagnosis, the support of loved ones can make all the difference. Here are three meaningful ways you can support a friend or family member dealing with breast cancer, particularly when they’re facing chronic pain.

1. Be Present, Be There

One of the most powerful ways to support someone with breast cancer and chronic pain is simply to be present. The journey through diagnosis, treatment and recovery can be an isolating experience. Being there physically and emotionally in the present can provide immeasurable comfort. 

Be purposeful to spend time in a way that is meaningful for your friend or family member that focuses on the here and now. Sometimes, the best way to support a loved one is by taking their mind off the grueling treatment process or the chronic pain symptoms that many times coincide. Engaging in activities you both enjoy can be a welcomed distraction. It’s a way of saying, “I’m here with you in this moment, and we can share some joy despite the pain.”

Sending frequent notes, texts, or calls is another way to be involved from a distance. In the midst of their struggle, your loved one may not always feel like talking or engaging in lengthy conversations. However, sending brief, frequent messages or texts can let them know you’re thinking of them and support them. A simple “Thinking of you” or “I’m here for you” can go a long way in brightening their day and lifting their spirits.

2. Encourage Involvement and Activities

Chronic pain can often make it challenging for someone with breast cancer to engage in everyday activities. However, suggesting a few specific projects or activities tailored to their abilities can make a significant difference in their outlook.

Depending on their physical condition and interests, you can suggest projects or activities that can be done together. For instance, you could propose an art project, go for a walk, or engage in a specific hobby like baking or knitting. These activities not only provide a welcomed distraction but can also offer a sense of accomplishment and purpose during a difficult time.

Chronic pain can make even the simplest tasks feel daunting. Offer to run errands, do grocery shopping or help with household chores. Your assistance can alleviate the physical strain on your loved one and allow them to conserve energy for more important matters.

3. Be Their Advocate

Throughout the breast cancer journey, your loved one will likely encounter various medical appointments and procedures. Being a supportive advocate can help ease their burden.

Attending doctor’s appointments with your loved one can provide emotional support and ensure that important information is not missed. Take notes during the appointments, ask questions and provide a second set of ears to understand the treatment plan.

The world of healthcare can be complex and overwhelming. Assist your loved one in understanding insurance, arranging transportation and organizing medical paperwork. Your help in this area can relieve a significant amount of stress.

Breast cancer is a life-changing diagnosis, coupled with emotion and many times chronic pain. Your support as a friend or family member can be a beacon of light during this dark time. Be there for your loved one, engage in activities that bring joy and a sense of purpose, and be their advocate in the healthcare system. By doing so, you’re not only providing physical assistance, but also the invaluable emotional support they need to fight this battle. Together, you can make a difference in their journey towards recovery and healing.

Dr. Adam Siwek
Dr. Adam Siwek

Dr. Adam Siwek is an Interventional Pain and Spine Specialist at The Pain Center of Arizona in Phoenix, Arizona where he focuses on treating a multitude of chronic pain conditions. Dr. Siwek received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree from Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine and went on to complete a residency in Anesthesiology with a surgical internship at the University of Arizona. Dr. Siwek furthered his medical training by completing a fellowship in Chronic Pain at the University of Arizona.