The support of other family members and friends is critical to how patients fare during treatment. Brainstorm with her about what kinds of support will be most helpful, and which of your friends and relatives might be willing to provide it, knowing that many women have difficulty accepting help from others.
It can help to remind her that she would likely want to help a friend or relative if the shoe were on the other foot. Offer to make a list of activities she may need help with and to keep a calendar of activities and names of those who are able to help. Ask whether and when you can share her diagnosis with others.
How and when to tell children about a partner’s or friend’s cancer diagnosis depends on the age of the child. Each child is different but, generally speaking, children up to about age 8 require less detailed information than those who are 8 and older. Talk with the patient about breaking the news, keeping in mind that children may not have questions right away. Be prepared to answer questions and concerns when they come up, reassuring them that they will always be loved and cared for. Assigning children tasks and chores related to their mother’s care offers them a way to feel useful during her treatment.
It’s common for young children to believe that something they did or did not do caused their mother to get cancer. Children may also worry that they or someone else in the family can “catch” cancer. Reassure them that no one caused the cancer and that it is not contagious.