I would like to honour all the women and men that have been affected by this disease. A very close friend of mine was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2016. Her experience shed a personal light on how this diagnosis affects the person as well as their surrounding family and friends.

She describes it as a stone being thrown in water and how the ripples start with the affected person to affect relationships with husband, children, other family, friends and eventually the wider community. During her journey of treatments, she developed a desire to help other women that are just starting theirs. She is active in her community to assist those people that are newly diagnosed. Amongst other things she compiled a list of practical tips and advice for everyone involved based on her experience.

Most important of all she states: “Don’t stop living! You are still alive!”

What you will need on this journey

• A good pair of hands to keep you strong – rely on the help of family and friends.
• A strong will to get better – until you can manage yourself again.
• To be able to let go of your shame – you will need help to be washed sometimes.
• A belief and trust that you will get better.
• A sense of humor for what is happening and try to see the humor in situations you are experiencing.
• A Journal – write down your experiences and feelings.

Don’ts for yourself

• Don’t listen to negative cancer stories – listen to happy endings.
• Don’t roll around at night. Use a sleeping pill.
• Don’t let yourself get into a dark hole – there is medication to help.
• Don’t skip your painkillers – use as indicated to prevent pain.
• Don’t stop living – you are still alive.

Don’ts for your family and friends

• Don’t faff over me.
• Don’t give me a lot of advice – I will ask.
• Don’t preach to me – I do know God.
• Don’t give me long pieces to read or lots of bible verses – I don’t have time to read now.

Practical tips - what you will need in hospital if you go for surgery

Get Comfortable

• 2 Memory foam pillows.
• Warm blanket.

Accessible clothes

• Pajamas that has buttons on the front.
• A nightdress – for the first day with catheter – preferably also with buttons.
• Large diaper like pins – it helps to pin catheter and wound drain bag to your clothes.
• Your tight band.
• Nightgown.
• 3 Spaghetti strap tops.
– 3 Tops with broad shoulder straps.
– Socks & close-toed shoes.
– Something special like a bracelet or chain.
– A red bra. You won’t be wearing it for a while.


• Hand sanitizer.
• 2 Washcloths – face & body.
• Body wash/ soap.
• Toiletries (soft toothbrush due to chemotherapy).
• Brush.
• Lip balm.
• Own towel.
• A scarf or hat when you have no hair (it gets cold).

If you enjoy a bath – take one the night before going into hospital.


• Bucket or plastic bag.
• A bag to hold catheter bag.
• A bag to hold wound drain.
• The drains and catheter may be overwhelming for visitors and little children – covering it up make it easier for those visiting you. It also helps you to move around with it.


• Lots of water & water bottle with straw.
• Something sweet.

Keeping Busy

• A magazine/ book.
• Journal and a good pen.
• Music.
• Bible.

Thank you Retha for letting me share your material.

Practical tips – what you will need at home when you have to go to hospital

  • Someone that will help you wash when you get back home.
  • If possible handheld showerhead in bath.
  • Sticky mat to use in the bath.
  • Clothes with buttons in front – you won’t be able to lift your arms for a while.
  • Someone on standby that will be available to help you get to doctors and other appointments.
  • Be prepared with food: stock your pantry– for at least the first week.
  • Travel pillow – helps underneath your arm.
  • Arm sling.

Practical tips – Parents with little children

• Make them part of your journey.
• Don’t lie to them.
• Try to provide as much information as they can handle – it helps them to cope.
• Take them to chemotherapy sessions with you one by one.
• Let them help you shave off your hair – it helps them to cope.
• Take something small with you to the hospital to spoil them with when they come to visit.
• Take a permanent marker with you to the hospital – when they come to visit draw a heart on their hands that they can kiss when they miss you.
• Write a letter to them before you go to the hospital so that they will know how much you love them.

Breast Health Reminders

  1. Monthly self-examination of your breasts as well as a routine yearly breast examination by a doctor is an integral part of routine female health checks.
  2. Routine yearly mammography is also advised if you are 40 years of age or older