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It’s October, and everything is pink. Breast Cancer Awareness Month hits you everywhere, from pink shoelaces to T-shirts to cosmetics.
It’s October, and everything is pink. Breast Cancer Awareness Month hits you everywhere, from pink shoelaces to T-shirts to cosmetics. The large charities are asking you to help fight breast cancer in an effort to raise funds for a cure. Or perhaps they’re advocating for more mammograms and better early detection. You know these causes are vital. Maybe all of this feels too late for your friend or neighbor who just received a life-changing diagnosis, but it doesn’t have to.
When we think about fighting breast cancer, we often think first about eradicating the disease. But there are, in fact, many different ways to fight. By supporting our friends and loved ones as they begin treatment, we are strengthening them for their battles. So, what happens when you help someone facing one of the toughest challenges of her life?
You ease her mind.
Life doesn’t stop for breast cancer. There are still bills to pay, dinners to prepare, and a lawn to mow. There is still work and after school activities. The normal pace of everyday life is pushed to the limit when you add in a treatment schedule and the resulting stress.
The Ashburn-based non-profit The Step Sisters provides a broad range of support services to those going through breast cancer treatment, including transportation, house cleaning, and childcare. Each service is designed to free a patient’s mind from everyday worries and allow her (or him) to focus on treatment and recovery. Taking just one worry off of a patient’s mind can do wonders.
Ashburn resident Liz Tobin describes the assistance she received from friends, “I was so lucky—all my friends were a great support when I was diagnosed. My treatment plan was different [than] most people[’s] because I had Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The chemotherapy I had was very hard on my body and meant I kept having to go to urgent care. My friends rallied ‘round, bringing dinner three nights a week and looking after my kids while my husband took me to the doctor.”
You provide her family with a sense of normalcy.
As wives and mothers, we often think of others first. While it’s impossible to shield loved ones from the diagnosis, we can ease the impact they feel. Helping the kids get to their activities keeps them in a somewhat normal routine. If she doesn’t have children, help with pets or check in with her caregiver or significant other.
Christine Stone, Oncology Nurse Navigator at Inova Loudoun Hospital, sees the benefit of such support for patients. She explains, “A common comment I receive from patients and their families is that they can’t believe the kindness of others. As someone faces a cancer diagnosis and treatment, it is very overwhelming. All anyone wants to feel is a sense of normalcy in their lives.”
Besides help from friends, Stone sees patients receive assistance from local organizations such as The IIIB’s Foundation, Loudoun Breast Health Network, and The Step Sisters.
You keep her on her treatment plan.
Did you know that something as simple as a lack of transportation often delays treatment for a breast cancer patient? While The Step Sisters help ease a patient’s worries, they have another overarching goal: “Timing is of the essence when it comes to breast cancer. Our primary goal is to ensure that no woman has to delay or even stop treatment because of her personal or financial situation,” explains Angela Fuentes, President of The Step Sisters.
Time and time again, the organization encounters women who just need a ride to treatment. Recently, the organization assisted a homeless patient, setting her up in a hotel close to the hospital and taking care of her other transportation needs to ensure she kept up with her treatment.
Tobin adds her experience saying, “After two weeks of radiation, I was too tired to drive myself. Again, my friends helped me, taking turns to get me there and back and making sure I had eaten before I had a nap. They did that for three weeks! I wouldn’t have [made it] through it all without their help.”
Indeed, when it comes to breast cancer, it’s a fight we can all share.
AIMEE TAYLOR owns Market Alignment, a Loudounbased marketing and public relations firm. She lives in Ashburn with her husband and two daughters