What do you need?
It's important to organise practical help and emotional support if you need it. Help can come from a variety of places.
Family and friends usually offer to help, but may not know what it is you need or what they can do.
There may be support services from local councils, community health services and cancer support organisations that you could use. Ask your GP, breast care nurse, social worker or palliative care service about what's available in your local area.
Writing a list of the emotional and practical needs you have at the moment can help you tap into the right people and services. Are you well at the moment, or not so well? Are you about to undergo treatment? Do you need someone to talk to?
Are you finding it difficult to manage some of the everyday tasks? Could you use a hand with shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing, transport, your garden, your children, your pets? Allocating tasks to others also makes them feel useful.
Do you simply need someone to talk to? Do you need help at work - or some time off? Your needs for support will probably change over time.
If you find it difficult asking for or accepting help, consider asking someone close to you to spread the word on your behalf.
'Work out which friends give you which kind of support you need: who makes you laugh; who makes you cry; who listens, listens, listens; who shares values; who will give you a hug when you need it.' -- Li
Connecting with others
Most women find that linking with other women living with secondary breast cancer is a great source of support.
'Our fears are similar, even though our life circumstances may be different.' --Judy
Some support groups cater for women with all types of breast cancer. Other groups tend to focus on women with early breast cancer. Often women living with secondary breast cancer have quite different experiences and issues and don't feel these groups meet their needs. It depends on the group.
Some groups support people with different types of secondary cancer, such as ovarian, bowel or lung cancer. People with other secondary cancers often have similar concerns and issues as women with secondary breast cancer. You can contact the Cancer Council Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20 to ask about such support groups.
There are very few support groups specifically for women with secondary breast cancer in Australia. You may find a group that suits your needs from our list of Member Groups.
'The women I met were the most important source of information, encouragement, discussion, sharing, crying, laughing.' -- Nicola
Web based support
Another option is to join our online network if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help.
A number of other web-based organisations offer chat rooms and online forums. The Secondary breast cancer 'other resources' list includes some websites that may be useful for you.
'It's a tough time, but there are people out there for you to talk to. You can't beat talking to people who have experienced this illness.' -- Tracey
Some Cancer Councils are able to connect women with secondary breast cancer via telephone. Find out more from your state Cancer Council on 13 11 20.
Having secondary breast cancer poses lots of challenges. Talking to someone outside your circle of close family and friends can be a great relief. You don't have to protect counsellors from things that are worrying you. Many women with secondary breast cancer ask their doctor to refer them to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist to help them manage their emotions.
'Counselling has saved me. At my lowest points, talking with someone who is objective and independent has helped me to work through my thoughts and emotions and put in place strategies that allow me to live each day with joy.' -- Amanda
- The Hope & Hurdles pack includes information on emotional and practical support available to women and families affected by secondary breast cancer.
- The personal stories section 'who helped me through' includes stories of personal support from family, friends and colleagues, by women who have experienced breast cancer.
- See our list of support groups - there may be one specifically for women with secondary breast cancer in your area.
- You can download Messages of Hope and Inspiration, a booklet containing messages from women living full and purposeful lives with secondary breast cancer (also available in the Hope & Hurdles pack).
- BCNA's brochure 'She has secondary breast cancer - how can I support her', is for partners, family and friends.
- The page on Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancer offers suggestions for family, friends and work colleagues on emotional and practical ways to help women.
- Contact the Cancer Council Cancer Helpline 13 11 20 to ask about other support options.
- Read Issue 26 of The Inside Story (Spring 2012) which contains an article on supportive care for women with secondary breast cancer.