Why It's So Important to Reach Out for Help When You Have Breast Cancer


This is not a good time to turn down offers of help.(ISTOCKPHOTO)Experts agree that breast cancer is a disease best fought with a team—a team that includes health-care professionals, family, and friends. Women can be especially bad about asking for help, perhaps because they're so used to taking care of other people. But this is no time to be stoic or polite.

Friends and family
"You're not Wonder Woman and you can't do everything—and that's OK," says Karen R. Monaghan, LICSW, a clinical oncology social worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. "It's hard for people to say, 'I need someone to clean my bathroom.' But don't be afraid to reach out."

More about getting help

When you organize your cancer-fighting team—whether formally or in the natural course of things in your family or community—let someone else be the point person, the one others can call to check on how you're doing and see where they can help. Or put that information online at CaringBridge.org.

Being able to reach out to your medical team is just as important—not that you're going to ask your oncologist to pitch in with the housework. But you have to be able to speak freely with the key people fighting to make you well, and you should understand what they're asking you to do and why. If you have questions, keep asking them until the answers make sense.

If doctor-patient communication is not as open and effective as you'd like, change that. "You have to be able to communicate with your oncologist," stresses Pam Tazioli, 54, of Seattle. "If you don't like [your doctor], then you need to get another one. This is too serious a matter to not be understanding what they're saying to you."