Breast Cancer Resource Center Savannah, GA USA

Top 5 Things Loved Ones Can Do to Help:

Many have asked me what they can do to help someone fighting breast cancer.  As a survivor, I can ONLY imagine what it must have been like for my family and friends.  It had to have been incredibly hard for them too!  Those closest to me wanted to help; and I can imagine how helpless they might have felt being unable to lift the burden itself off of my shoulders. 

Unfortunately, loved ones can’t wipe away our pain, shield us from it, protect us from heartache and loss; nor can they travel the path of uncertainty for us.  That truth can breed a since of, “well, what can I do? I feel so powerless here!  I hate watching them suffer.”  To see someone close to you struggle and to not be able to make it go away for them has got to be hard, probably infuriating for a caregiver! 

However, if you are that loved one and you’re feeling helpless and concerned and you want to help, here is my list of the top 5 things that ARE helpful!  These are, of course, in addition to being present, letting them know that they’re loved, etc.  (Send cards, phone calls, messages, coffee dates, etc). 

Here are the top 5 in no particular order:

1) Organize a meal train

After surgery or even during chemo when your body is run down and weak, cooking can be exhausting.  Women are nurtures by design, and despite dealing with an awful physical ordeal, we can feel responsible for making sure dinner is warm and on the table.  Guilt can manifest if we’re unable to get it done, or anger towards the cancer itself can intensify.  By having a meal train set up to bring food two or three times a week, we are granted that kind reprieve.  Our family gets fed, and we’re permitted to rest and recoup rather than worry and stress.  Check out a meal train to orchestrate for your loved one.

2) Have their house cleaned

After surgery, it’s hard to move…let alone clean.  Those who’ve undergone a mastectomy have the added disadvantage of tending to drains and not being able to move their arms.  Chemo patients can have impaired immune systems as a consequence of the depletion of their white blood cells.  That can make it even more important for the house to stay clean.  Yet, if you’re sick and can’t move, cleaning is one of the furthest things down on your priority list.  Having a cleaning person come once or twice after surgery or during chemo can be a HUGE blessing. You can either clean their house for them or hire a cleaning service to come once or twice.


This is for anyone who has surgery (specifically a mastectomy) prior to chemotherapy.  After the surgery, drains hang from your body (sewn in place with a few stiches).  They are there collecting fluid from the cavities within.  As a result, you’re not supposed to take a shower; and even if you could, your arms aren’t able to reach your head anyhow.  (No worries: that range of motion will improve).  However, those first few weeks post-surgery, when you can’t shower and can’t even reach the hair on your head, can make it hard to feel clean; and that can be depressing.  Give your loved one a pony-tail fund where they can go to the salon and have somebody else wash and dry their hair for them.  My hair was incredibly long at the time, and there was no way I could have taken care of it on my own.  Having this fund and being able to go have my hair washed every 2-3 days for those first two weeks made me feel like a new person.  I felt ‘normal’; I felt empowered. I felt like I could do this!

4) Create a “chemo essentials” bag for them

When you receive chemo treatment, you have to go to a room and sit and wait for hours while the toxins drip.  It’s cold and boring; and NOBODY wants to be there.  So create your loved one an essential chemo bag with some of these must haves:

  • Journal/ cool pen
  • Fuzzy blanket
  • Pretty feminine socks
  • Water bottle
  • Deck of cards
  • Magazines, books, coloring books and pencils
  • Snacks
  • Super soft hats (Your head can get really cold without hair, and sometimes hats can be scratchy and hurt your head.  So, be sure to find soft ones)

5) Help remind them of their femininity (of their own internal glow and beauty)

Those that fight breast cancer can feel like their womanhood is getting ripped away from them bit by bit.  Help them feel and know that they are beautiful both with or without their breasts and with or without their hair.  Here are some ideas:

Goddess Sessions

Mackensey Alexander is a phenomenal photographer based out of Savannah who offers these empowering photo packages. Read my own testimonial below; and check out her site to learn what Goddess Sessions are all about and how to orchestrate a session for your loved one.

“My husband set up a Goddess session for me after we received word that I had breast cancer and would require a double mastectomy followed by chemo.  Initially, I didn’t quite know what to think about the sessions.  I was uneasy with the idea because I not only tend to be modest, but I was also incredibly heartbroken that I would soon be losing my breasts.  However, after I learned what Goddess sessions were truly about, I fell in love with the idea.  These sessions are not about showcasing physical attributes.  Rather, they are a means to show your true colors (your true inner beauty) that radiates from within.  I needed to learn to look to the light, to laugh, and to embrace my own true beauty.  Goddess sessions are an avenue for you, as a woman, to both recognize and embrace this light from within; and they did just that for me.  I am more than my breasts; I am more than my hair.  I was able to connect with the world around me and harvest from within myself my own true beauty: my courage, my strength, my vulnerability, and my resolve.  I felt these true colors of my own shine through my laughter and my tears.  I felt what it meant to be beautiful, to be real, to be me.” 

photos by Mackensey Alexander

Additional ideas to help remind them of their femininity:

  • Manicure/pedicure. 
  • Bracelet or other jewelry with a message or meaning
  • Beautiful scarfs or hats
  • Anything that they can look at and be reminded of their femininity and beauty from within.