Helping a female athlete with breast cancer
Women seem to cherish above all the experiences of the deeper life that transcend the separateness of the individual ego and allow us to feel more connected with others.
~A women’s best medicine
If you are a parent, teammate, or coach of an athlete who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, there are hundreds of things you can do. To start, take some time process the news, and after a breath, try these social & science based strategies to begin providing some grace through the grit.
If you are concerned with what role you will take through this journey, remember you are already a coach, a parent, or a teammate, so remain in your role. Liken your athlete to someone whom is bilingual; they speak the language according to whom is in front of them and rarely do they reverse this. Comparatively, an athlete’s support system is defined, and they will look to you for what you do best.
Writing notes is a subtle, yet poignant way to stay in touch with someone. You can ask simple questions and then store their answers. This allows them space to respond at will, and it also indirectly provides insight on their needs.
Practice the pause
If you feel that you have the answer to their struggle, pause. Often women are not looking for an answer, they are seeking a sounding board to sift through their thoughts. Athletes often come upon answers while they are training: running, cycling strengthening, and so forth. If this is taken away from them during treatments, they may need to express their worries differently. So, let them speak freely. Listen to understand if they are asking for advice, or just need a sounding board, and then respond accordingly.
Use new-age support
Follow their Instagram, blog, or whatever social media platform they are using to express their self-story; support even in this format can be positively life changing. Social media has been linked to helping many women find a more suitable and personal treatment plan. Online support also offers many people comfort.
Provide athletic inspirations
Provide them with ways to reach out to other athletes or even just stories of those that have experienced a battle. It may not be an immediate comfort, but encouragement ebbs and flows through people; they may need personal time before feeling spiritually inspired by other fighters.
Bring them to something they love
Change of scenery can open new neural pathways that potentially can lead to positive memories. These positive memories can create go-to thoughts of inspiration during treatments or recovery. For example; that simple pre-treatment brunch and stroll through the park, may trigger a yearning to do it again when they feel healthy and strong post-treatment. It provides a small, attainable and enjoyable goal.
Bring them something special
Think basic or outside the box, it really is the thought that counts.
Laundry is a common activity for athletes, but treating themselves to a special scent may not be the norm. Take the guess work out of a gift and order The Laundress Sport detergent – guaranteed to brighten-up any athlete’s load :)
Ask your athlete for the one responsibility you could take-over that would help them the most, and then own this task. Encourage others around you to do the same. This is much more worthwhile and less draining for the athlete than having to constantly visit the same can I do anything question.
Exude calm, because it is contagious
Calmness begets comfort therefore relax; you will think more clearly when you are calm. Also use the mantra peace before the approach, and if you are unsure what to say to your athlete, just pause. Harmonizing silence can create togetherness, and possibly that is what is needed the most.