When your loved one is considering breast reconstruction on Long Island, she is grappling with a very personal decision, and numerous questions. It is often difficult to know how to provide support to a partner, mother, sister or friend who may be overwhelmed by information and emotion. The following are a few suggestions for ways in which you can help your loved one through this challenging time.
One of the practical ways you can be a supportive caregiver is by collecting and sorting through the volumes of information that are available about breast reconstruction. With your loved one's permission, become familiar with her medical practitioners and speak with them about your questions and concerns. You may want to create a list of questions about breast reconstruction, which may include the following:
- What is breast reconstruction?
- What are the surgical options for breast reconstruction?
- Which is better: immediate reconstruction or delayed reconstruction?
- What are realistic expectations for breast reconstruction surgery?
- What is the recovery from breast reconstruction like?
- What about secondary surgeries?
- Will her/our health plan provide insurance coverage for breast reconstruction?
Dr. James Romanelli, Dr. Dana Khuthaila, and Dr. Christine Blaine are excellent sources for answers to your questions about breast reconstruction. They will thoroughly address all of your questions and concerns with patience and compassion. By helping this important woman in your life to get answers to her questions about breast reconstruction, you are helping her begin to make decisions in an informed manner.
Provide Emotional Support
One of the most important aspects of helping a loved one facing mastectomy is allowing her to talk about her feelings. For instance, she may be anxious about undergoing a major surgery or she may need to mourn the loss of her breast(s). Here are some of the things you can do to help:
- Be available to listen, even when it may be difficult. Resist the urge to offer solutions or "cheer her up" by saying things like "everything will be fine." Just by allowing her to voice her feelings, fears, and concerns, you will help relieve her feelings of isolation or loneliness.
- With her permission, accompany her to consultations and appointments for moral support.
- Respect her decisions about treatment and reconstruction options. As mentioned, breast reconstruction is an extremely personal decision, and ultimately, it is her body and her life that are affected.
Help With Practical Tasks
When your loved one undergoes her mastectomy, either with or without immediate reconstruction, she will need plenty of care and assistance. Not only will she be unable to do certain things, like run errands or do household chores, she may also need help taking care of herself so that she can feel better and begin a healthy recovery. Here are a few suggestions of ways you can help:
- Offer to cook a nutritious meal
- Pick up prescriptions or medical supplies for her
- Grocery shop for healthy foods
- Help her to eliminate excess stress from her life
- Help her to make time for the things she loves
- Encourage healthy lifestyle choices, while supporting her in eliminating any unhealthy habits
If someone close to you is considering breast reconstruction, understand that she may feel overwhelmed and inundated with decisions to be made. Some women need time to sort through all of their options, and may opt for delayed reconstruction. Others may want to combine surgeries and shorten recovery time, choosing to have reconstruction at the time of mastectomy. Be sure to show patience, and allow your loved one to make these decisions without pressure or undue influence. Whatever choice she makes, she will need your continued love and support in order to have the best possible recovery.