Tips, Experiences and Inspiration for Those who are Caring for the Seriously Ill. 

Megan McAuliffe

On her 37th birthday, Béatrice Compagnon from Boobytrapp received a phonecall after several months of inconclusive tests, breaking the dreaded news that she did in fact have non-invasive breast cancer.

Living and working in Colombia, Béa decided to have a mastectomy to remove both breasts to avoid radiation treatment. However, her Dad died suddenly two days before she was scheduled to have surgery.

Emotional Cancer support from friends and family

She had no expectations of how her loved ones would support her at this time, until after her dad’s funeral when she received a lovely surprise. Her best friends decided to fly to Paris where she had attended her Dad’s funeral, before she was due to fly back to Colombia for surgery.

“My best friend Päm was in Austria, and another friend Julian was in Iceland on vacation with his girlfriend. Julian said to his girlfriend, ‘Béa needs me, I have to go.’ His girlfriend was so understanding,” Béa said.

“It was amazing spending this time with them in Paris. Just being there for me at this time was so important. They gave me the strength to go on to have the mastectomy,” she said.

Her recovery wasn’t smooth sailing, Béa got an infection in one of her breasts and the wound opened and would not close as her body rejected the stitches. She then had to have the implant removed.

“It was a long and painful experience, it was pretty lousy,” she said.

It wasn’t until after her recovery when she read an article written by her friend Päm that she realised how much pressure her family and friends were under during this tense time.

“I had no idea how much anxiety Pamela was going through. She gets scared every time I get sick,” Béa said.

Béa said an open, clear channel of communication is so important between loved ones. Keeping everyone in the loop and letting them in on cancer talk which patient’s share is also key.

Practical, concrete Cancer support is important

“The family wants to be there for you, but they don’t know what to say and you don’t want to scare them,” Béa said.

It’s important for them to know that it’s okay to make a joke, and keep things feeling as normal as possible.

Offering your time and practical support helps. Make a meal plan, schedule who’s doing what and on which day. Send a care package, with books and creams. Take the kids out. It’s helping with the concrete things that make such a difference.

Loved ones experience the ups and downs of cancer too

“When you’ve finished treatment, you’re still going through checkups which are initially every three months, then every 6 months, until it’s once a year,” Béa said.

Those checkups can cause incredible anxiety, which Béa refers to as ‘scanxiety’.

Help them help you by staying open and considering that while you’re living with cancer, your loved ones are too.

“Every time a patient goes through regular cancer checkups, family and friends have to go through that fear and anxiety too. Loved ones also get scared,” Béa said.

Bea is co-founder of Boobytrapp, a wonderful app which helps connect young breast cancer patient’s to each other.