Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Skip to main content


Make yourself a priority: How to tell others what you want AND what you don’t want

How to talk to others about your needs during cancer treatment


Breast cancer treatment can be a stressful time. Because of this added stress, it is important for patients to find ways to reduce the stress in other areas of their lives.

Stress impairs a person’s immune function, and it’s the immune system that is helping to control the progress of any cancer, says Dr. Diana Dickson-Witmer of Beebe Center for Breast Health. That means stress can have a physical effect on treatment.

“None of us can control the stressors to which we are exposed, however we can change how the stress affects us and how much we allow it to affect our body.”

Ways to reduce stress in your body:

  • If you are a runner or walker, add in some extra steps or try a new course. The combination of being outdoors and exercising can help your body keep stress at bay.
  • Try yoga or Tai Chi – focused breathing and movement can help your body relax.
  • Go outside. Even if you aren’t able to walk five miles, take a short walk outside on the beach or in the woods. The fresh air can help you feel refreshed.
  • Get in the water. Some studies have shown the benefit of swimming when it comes to reducing stress in the body. If you are not a great swimmer, spend some time floating on your back in a swimming pool or even wading during warmer weather in the ocean or bay.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Even the strongest people and the best patients need help now and then. It could be as simple as getting help picking up the kids, running the vacuum, or bringing over a dinner once a week, but even these simple bits of help can make a huge difference in your stress levels and your outlook! 

If you notice you are running around and not finding time for yourself, reach out to a friend or family member to see if they can give you a helping hand. 

If you feel uncomfortable asking for help, keep a list of people with their phone numbers in your kitchen or on the fridge so that your partner or friend can reach out on your behalf.


How to say no

Often, you will have people coming out of the woodwork wanting to help you. In some cases, they may have specific ways in which they want to help and it could be that their ideas do not fit with your current needs.

It is OK to say no. 

And, just like it is OK to say no to help that you do not want or need, it is also OK to say no to social obligations.

If you aren’t feeling up to attending this month’s book club or wine dinner, simply tell the host that you are sorry, but you will not be attending. Perhaps your spot could be given to someone else.

Now is the time to focus on your health and your needs. It is important to not bring in added stress in the form of things that aren’t really obligations.


Join a support group

Often, talking to others who have been through what you are going through can help. Beebe offers support groups and also partners with Cancer Support Community – DE to bring educational seminars and group meetings to breast cancer patients.

Other local organizations also have support for breast cancer patients – check out these links:

•    Beebe Support Groups:;
•    Cancer Support Community – DE: 
•    YMCA Livestrong program: 
•    Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition: