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Breast Cancer's Relationship Toll

Any major illness can strain close relationships. But for women with breast cancer, it can be an especially difficult emotional challenge.

Breast Cancer: Getting The Support You Need continued...

"As hard as it is for you to face your cancer, it's also hard for the people who love and care about you -- and allowing them to help you helps them to cope. So in a way, accepting their help is a little gift you give to them," says Nelson. 

At the same time, Puckett says that it's also important to be as specific as possible about what you need.

"Many times people want to help but just don't know what to do," says Puckett. By being as specific as possible, she says, you'll make it easier for friends and family to give you the support you really need. Take some time to make a list of things you know you’ll need help with while you’re going through treatments, so when friends or family offer, you’re ready. For example, if you know you’ll be fatigued and sick after a chemotherapy session, ask a friend to bring over dinner or even take your kids out for a bite to eat while you rest.

Finally, experts say, don't be disappointed if not everyone in your life steps up to help, even when you ask. It doesn't mean they don't care.

"Everyone reacts to, and copes with, crisis in a different way. And very often, you don't find who can't handle things until the crisis occurs," says Puckett.

If this is the case, don't despair. Experts say the key is to recognize the role each person can play in your life. And if you need more help, don't be afraid to turn to a professional or a support group for the rest.

Says Puckett, "From counselors and social workers at your treatment center, to online communities, to chat rooms, to local support groups, to various cancer organizations, don't overlook the incredible communities of people who will open their hearts -- if you let them." 

Reviewed on September 26, 2007

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