Image: Taylor Swift and her mum Andrea in 2010 (Getty)
Even if her music isn’t your cup of soup, you have to admire the effort Taylor Swift channels into forging a warm, personal relationship with her fans.
Follow the 25-year-old pop star on any of her social media platforms for long enough, and her photos, videos and anecdotes will make you feel like you’ve known her — and all her friends, family members, and two adorable cats — for years. (Post continues after gallery.)
Last night, the Shake It Off singer posted a new, deeply personal update for her thousands of Tumblr followers — only this time, it was to reveal some terribly sad news about her mum Andrea Garner Finlay.
“I’m writing to you with an update I wish I wasn’t giving you, but it’s important and I’m used to sharing important events in my life with you,” Swift begins.
“For Christmas this year, I asked my mom that one of her gifts to me be her going to the doctor to get screened for any health issues, just to ease some worries of mine … The results came in, and I’m saddened to tell you that my mom has been diagnosed with cancer. I’d like to keep the details of her condition and treatment plans private, but she wanted you to know.”
Having a friend, family member or even an acquaintance diagnosed with cancer, or any serious medical condition, is enough to shake anyone to the core. It’s also heartbreaking when someone you know receives devastating news like this.
If you've never been in the same position yourself, it can be hard to find the right words to adequately, and sensitively, express your empathy and support. Too often, our fear of saying the wrong thing prevents us from saying anything at all — especially when it comes to something as scary as a cancer diagnosis.
"Rather than being fearful of upsetting the person, or anxious about saying the wrong thing, being genuine in the way you communicate yourself and provide support is the most important thing," says psychologist Pinar Karabulut.
"I think absence of support can be detrimental to those affected by it, because this is the time when they need the most amount of help."
In the immediate wake of sad news, it's possible that your friend won't be up to face-to-face talking because they'll have so much to deal with. At this point, the most important thing to do is express empathy and let them know you're there and happy to listen and help when they're ready.
"You could say something like, "I've just heard the sad news, I can only imagine what you're going through," or, "I'm so sorry for what's happened". It's also about communicating hope; "I'm here for you, I'm here to listen to you, and we'll go through this together"," Ms Karabulut suggests.