How Do I Talk to a New Breast Cancer Survivor?

I'm a 14-year prostate cancer survivor and cancer advocate and I'm trying to understand the best way to communicate to my younger sister - 12 years younger - who has been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

Every cancer survivor goes through stages in coming to grips with the disease and how we are going to react to it. I spent a career in the army so my approach was to gather all of the data I could and build my battle plan.

My sister is a much gentler soul and I haven't seen that fighting spirit emerge yet. She still is in the victim stage. Her situation is compounded by the fact that she is single and live more than 100 miles from the nearest family member, and I live on the opposite coast.

I'm the older brother so we always have bit of sibling tension because she tends to perceive my suggestions as "you shoulds" instead of just ideas. I still have that military directness so I try hard to be careful with my phraseology.

Today is her second of five chemotherapy sessions (they are scheduled three weeks apart) prior to her surgery, which currently is scheduled for September.

She lost much of her hair just these last few days and I expect the rest will be gone in the next few days.

I was very fortunate not to have needed chemotherapy before or after my surgery so I don't have a feeling for what she is experiencing.

I've encouraged her to connect with the breast cancer support community but she hasn't done that yet. She has two close girlfriends she is relying on but neither of them have experienced breast cancer. Perhaps she feels joining a support group makes the cancer more permanent.

So, my challenge is how to get her to expand her network to include the breast cancer support community.



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