The Brazette

How To Have A Difficult Conversation

24 October 2022

Whether you are sharing your own breast cancer diagnosis, supporting a loved one, have lost a loved one or you’ve noticed a change and are speaking to your doctor for the first time – we know it’s not always easy to find the words to say.

In times of sadness and anxiety it can be tempting to retreat but reaching out to loved ones and getting it off your chest can help you to feel less alone.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with The Self Space this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to bring you some advice on how to have some difficult but important conversations.

What to do when…

Your loved one has breast cancer

First up, none of us find difficult conversations easy. We stumble and stutter, tripping over our words out of fear of saying the wrong thing. This is human. What matters is our intention. Listen with a yearning to understand, softening the urge to respond and to fix. Check in and ask, do you need me to sit and hold space with you right now? Or do you need me to be practical and helpful? Most of the time people just need us to listen. Know that someone’s cancer diagnosis isn’t always an opportunity for them to become a hero or an inspiration to others, sometimes it is something in their life they just need to get through or try and survive.

What to do when…

You have received a breast cancer diagnosis and need to tell your family and friends

Make sure you’re in an environment that feels safe, take breathing breaks as often as you need to and try to hold how you’re feeling in mind. You could even write out what you’d like to say beforehand if you’re worried you won’t be able to find the words. We have the tendency to put others’ safety masks on before our own, especially when we’re going through something difficult. But on these occasions when your loved ones are gathered round, really lean into the support that they are there to provide.

What to do when…

Someone has lost a loved one to breast cancer

It’s common to hold a lot of fear around loss because it reminds us of our own mortality. We sometimes bring this fear with us when people we love are going through something difficult. We can fall into two camps: we either avoid reaching out to them, or we come in all guns blazing ready to fix, mend and fuel. Sadness doesn’t need to be treated with the urgency of a shark attack, and it also doesn’t need to be handled with kid gloves. Be gentle but be proactive, ask: How do you wish people would act around you right now? Affirm and recognise how very sh*t the situation is, validate it with mindful compassion.

What to do when…

You have noticed a change and don’t know how to speak to your doctor

The first instinct might be to panic but keep in mind that 9 out of 10 people who are referred to the breast clinic are not given a cancer diagnosis. It can feel embarrassing to talk to your doctor about your breasts, but they have seen it all before! If you would prefer to be seen by a doctor of a specific gender, you can request this when you book the appointment. If going to the doctors on your own feels scary, ask a friend or family member to accompany you. It may also help to bring notes about your symptoms with you to your appointment to refer back to if you feel overwhelmed at any point.

Other things that are helpful to say when you don’t have the words:

  • What can I take off your plate?
  • What would be most helpful for you right now? (Know that this can change day to day).
  • What do you need to help you through today?
  • Would you like to talk about it or would you rather watch some TV?
  • Shall we get some fresh air together?
  • Do you need anything from the shops?


If you’re looking for more information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, our Self-Checkout tool is there to guide you through all you need to know about checking your chest. Click below to get started.


If you’re struggling with anxiety, grief or low mood and want to talk about it, Self Space has over 60 lovely therapists on the team. You’re always welcome to book in with them for a chat.

Self Space

Get a Regular
Boob Check

Knowing your boobs could save your life, so sign up for one of our regular reminders to check your boobs.

Remind Me