There are as many ways of being a co-survivor as there are people! Thoughtful gestures big and small mean so much to survivors, whether they’ve just been diagnosed or completed treatment many years ago.
Who is a Co-Survivor?
At Susan G. Komen, we consider a person a survivor from the moment a breast cancer diagnosis is confirmed. Co-survivors can be family members, spouses or partners, friends, health care providers or colleagues. Anyone who is there to lend support from diagnosis through treatment and beyond is considered a co-survivor. Many different co-survivors may enter the survivor’s life over time, lending support in a variety of ways.
For example, an oncologist provides information, hope and advice about treatment options. Friends and family may give practical help like driving to and from doctor’s appointments to help with cooking or cleaning, grocery shopping, child care or even gathering information about breast cancer. And a supervisor may even help find ways to balance work and treatment schedules.
Co-survivors also give much needed emotional support, such as listening or being there to give a hug.
What can I do? What can I say?
Is someone you know battling breast cancer or stepping back into “normal” life after treatment? Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or do. Fact sheets and information about the breast cancer and its emotional impact can help you understand and reach out and meet the needs of someone going through this experience.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends breast cancer survivors and their caregivers get the seasonal flu shot.
Help me understand what you’re going through
Breast cancer is complex and overwhelming. It can change lives, relationships, goals and priorities. Information about what you and your loved one might expect along the way is very important. The information can help you cope and retain some sense of control during this challenging time. We have many educational materials that cover a wide variety of topics that can help you learn about breast cancer, including how it is found, treated and what may be expected afterwards.
Create a network of support!
Learn how friends, co-workers and neighbors can join together to assist your loved one in their time of need by creating a private online group calendar at lotsahelpinghands.com.
As a coordinator, you can create, free-of-charge, a private and secure web community, define volunteer activities using the supplied templates and invite members to the community. Volunteers can then easily view and sign up for any number of available tasks (i.e. bring meals, drive to doctor’s appointments, provide child care, etc.) and review their current commitments. Community members also have access to the community’s private message boards, photo galleries, resource sections and even a Well Wishes wall.
Bring together family, friends and coworkers to help support and care for your loved one through a caring social network and planner. CaringBridge provides sites where friends and family can stay connected and updated on someone’s health event – and leave messages of hope and encouragement. Their planner also gives you the power to set a community of support in motion by organizing meals, tasks and other helpful activities. CaringBridge is available to anyone free of charge for as long as it’s needed.
Sharing your story – connecting with other co-survivors
As a co-survivor, you provide much needed support for your loved one’s fight against breast cancer. But, you need support, too! By sharing your story and connecting with other co-survivors, you can be part of a group connected by strength, hope and love. Read stories of hope and encouragement from co-survivors and breast cancer survivors, and share your story to help inspire others.
You are not alone. This year in the U.S., a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes. Each diagnosis affects everyone in that person’s life.
When you have lost a loved one to breast cancer
When you have lost someone to breast cancer, it’s extremely painful. When a loved one dies, you go through a process called grieving (suffering). The grieving process happens over a period of time and everyone feels grief in their own way. Below are some signs of grieving:
- having trouble thinking or focusing
- not eating
- losing weight
- feeling depressed
- having trouble sleeping
- feeling tired
- feeling lonely
- feeling guilty
- feeling angry
Grieving is normal and should be expected. In time, the pain should slowly ease and you should be able to go on with your normal daily routines.
During this time, you will need social support to help you get through this experience. Support, both formal and informal can help you work through these issues of loss and grief.
Bereavement (loss) counseling is a special type of professional care, which has been shown to help. If your loved one was in hospice, grief and bereavement counseling is an important part of hospice care for caregivers. You may also get a referral from a health care provider.
In time, you may want to honor your loved one by being part of the cause. Here are some ways to get involved and show your support.
- Make a donation in honor of your loved one.
- Participate in an event, such as the Komen Race for the Cure ® or the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure™.
- Become an advocate.
- Contact an Affiliate in your area to learn about other ways you can get involved in your local community.
No matter how you choose to get involved, you will make a difference in your own life and the lives of others. Not only can these activities be personally rewarding, but they may benefit many people living with breast cancer and their families now and in the future.
TOOLS & RESOURCES