How can I help my friend

Loisanne Member Posts: 2
edited March 2014 in Breast Cancer #1
Please give me some suggestions on how to help my friend. We have been best friends for 46 years. She lives 400 miles away from me now and has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I want to say the right things and do the right things to help her face and defeat this #@$%$#$# cancer


  • cabbott
    cabbott Member Posts: 1,039 Member
    When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was a basket case: lots of fears, lots of tears, lots and lots of doctor visits to juggle. All I knew about cancer then was that people died of it, so obviously I was terrified. My sister, who lived 12 1/2 hours away, wanted to help. She took the time to call me or email me every week. If she knew I had a test coming up, she would call afterward to see how I did and ask what the result was a week later. She was a doctor though not a cancer specialist. Still, she looked up things when I didn't understand something and checked on the internet and in medical magazines to make sure I was doing the right stuff to maximize my chances for keeping cancer at bay. Mostly she just listened and let me know she cared. Even if she had not had any medical expertise, I would have appreciated her checking to make sure I was doing okay. Another thing someone did that I still remember are the ones that sent a basket of useful stuff (packets of hot chocolate, a book to read NOT on cancer, a funny DVD, dark chocolate bars, special teas (Sencha green tea is supposed to fight cancer), and so forth). Some Girl Scouts I will never know packed a bag with makeup and goodies that a nurse gave me as I came out of surgery. I had a very sore throat from the anethesia (I had to have a mastectomy and needed general anethesia for that) and the butterscotch drops in that bag really helped. As for what to say, understand that cancer is a broad term for a number of different diseases. There are even many kinds of breast cancer and we don't get a choice about which one we get or how aggressive it is. Nobody has figured out exactly what causes any of the breast cancers or how to keep it from ever coming back. This is a genetic disease of messed up cells and it is nobody's fault. Exercise and a good diet seem to help some. Medicine and surgery help some. It took me time to realize that breast cancer for most of us is like a chronic disease that we have to learn to live with. They were starting to keep ten year statistics back in 2002 when I was first diagnosed. Now they are starting to keep 20 year statistics! The changes reflect the better medicines and better results out there. So encourage your friend to learn as much as she can about her kind of cancer and what she can do about it. Encourage her to get to the best breast cancer specialists she can find. Keep after her to make all those wearisome doctor visits those first few years. Send junk she can use. Email funny jokes (a good laugh boasts immune function and relieves pain too). Encourage her to ask questions on this website or one like it. See if there are any support groups in her area for breast cancer and tell her when the meetings are so she can go if she wants. If she lives too far from town, check out the Wellness Community or this website for support groups. Call her just to say hi without discussing medical stuff. Be her friend.
  • Susan956
    Susan956 Member Posts: 510

    Sounds like she automatically has one leg up on many people to be blessed with a friend who really cares. Right now I would expect just being a listening board would be very helpful... Many times early on we just need someone to vent too. Also I had a friend who always called on my treatment days just to check in on me. It was a call that I looked forward to.... and it never failed to come... Little cards... funny emails.. anything that can keep her spirits up with help.

    Take Care... God Bless you both.

  • SweetSue
    SweetSue Member Posts: 217
    cards and emails help a lot. It is better to listen than to risk saying something that may bother your friend. I was very sensitive at the time of my diagnosis.
  • chenheart
    chenheart Member Posts: 5,159
    The advice and suggestions you got are wonderful! Women are often by nature comes automatically to us. I would simply be honest with her about your quandry: tell your friend that you don't really know what to say or do! You have been friends long enough to start a conversation that way, right?
    But putting the shoe on the other foot will no doubt help you~what things do YOU like? Why are you friends? Think about those things and reciprocate!
    I do not advocate her going on line to find out info...there is so much out there, and it is overwhelming and frightening. And not always accurate or helpful. An exception to that is this site, of course! When I was diagnosed almost 5 years ago, I happened to see a TV ad for CSN. It was a true source of support and gave me courage and friends who I will love forever! Perhaps you could steer your dear friend in here. The chatroom is amazing for that instant support, and of course the Boards for threads about our specific cancer type. Thanks for being that good friend, blessings to both of you!
  • seof
    seof Member Posts: 819 Member
    I agree with the others. You and your friend have probably been through other tough times. Be honest with want to help, but don't know how....I expect she will appreciate your desire. Maybe think of some things like cards, hot tea, bath beads, or whatever and ask her what would help her feel better, then send her a care package. If that isn't her "cup of tea",maybe just a regular phone call or email...anything to let her know you are still there for her. I know I find emails to be a great comfort, even if they just have the sender's name and "thinking of you today".
  • EloiseC
    EloiseC Member Posts: 1
    There's a women's website that did a video about this very topic. They interviewed a woman while she was going through chemo and asked her how friends can support someone going through treatment. Check it out here:

    In addition to the suggestions in the video, I would recommend just being sincere with her. I know that when I went through it people were awkward and didn't know what to say. One friend who swears a lot didn't know what to say so I told her, "Well you know, there's only one thing to say about this: it sucks a--!" She immediately lost all awkwardness and just acted like herself. That is what I appreciated the most, when people were honest instead of feeding me the standard lines. Tell your friend you want to help her face this and deafeat this #@$%$#$# cancer - she will probably appreciate your candor.

    Just remember you can't ever go wrong just by being you and being the friend you've always been.
  • MichelleHM
    MichelleHM Member Posts: 13
    Loisanne: You are a good friend. So glad you are asking questions like this. As mentioned, be a sounding board. Listen to her and comfort her.

    Next, advise her to write down all her questions for when she sees her doctors. Tell her to take a friend with her to take notes for her. Why? because she is most likely is still in shock and afraid. A friend taking notes for her will capture the doctors response to her prepared questions and his/her advice. The added bonus is the friend can repeat what they heard back to her.

    Next, if she hasn't gotten Dr. Susan Love's the Breast Book, buy it for her. I found this to be very helpful.

    Remember, arming yourself with knowledge is the best thing one can do to survive breast cancer.

    Best of luck to your friend.

  • Loisanne
    Loisanne Member Posts: 2
    Thank you all for your advice. It took me a while to remember my password so I could reply. My friend's news has gotten worse - she has it in 2 sites on the left and one on the right so she is scheduled for a double masectomy in August. I have been sending cards as Susan suggested - I send two - a funny one and a mushy one - each week and write on the outside- open this one if you need a laugh or open this one if you need a good cry. And Chenheart - she said the very thing you did - she gets the information she needs from her doctor and her friend who is a nurse and she doesn't want to delve into all of the what ifs she can find on line! My kids also gave me a great idea - we went through their I tunes library and picked happy songs - some funny, some which bring back great memories of our teenage years - and we burnt her a CD which she really liked. Thanks again - Lois