Receiving a shocking breast cancer diagnosis disrupts a woman’s life in countless ways, but it shouldn’t change her friendships. If anything, going through this life-changing journey should make the bonds between friends even stronger.
Here are five practical ways you can help your friend.
Let her freely express her fears and concerns — and simply listen. Resist the urge to fill the silences and to offer unsolicited advice.
It’s also best not to share stories about other people’s negative experiences or to tell your friend how she should feel. Instead, acknowledge how unnerving and complicated the situation must feel.
Above all, let your friend know you’ll be by her side for the long haul, not just in the early stages and that she can trust you when she’d like to keep information and her thoughts and feelings private.
Offer specific help
The classic response to people in a crisis is “Let me know if you need anything.” But the truth is, in most cases, that open-ended statement isn’t helpful since your friend will likely feel awkward calling you out of the blue for a favor. Instead, try offering to help with specific tasks, such as:
- Buying groceries
- Cleaning the house
- Doing yard work
- Driving kids to activities
- Organizing meals
- Pet care
- Managing a CaringBridge or similar page to share updates.
Give her thoughtful gifts, cards
Little gifts or notes go a long way toward brightening someone’s day. You can even reach out to family and friends to mail you a note and present them together in a special box, perhaps on a significant day or milestone in her treatment. Gift ideas might include:
- Amazon gift cards so she can shop from home
- Care packages with colorful socks, lip balm, tissues, lotion and hard candy for a dry mouth or metallic taste from medication
- Magazines, books
- Notebook with pockets to keep track of information
- Pajamas, robe, silky pillowcase
- Scarves, hat.
You may also consider insisting you don’t want a thank you note in return for any gifts.
Offer to go to appointments
If your friend feels overwhelmed, offer to go to doctor appointments to take notes and ask questions she might not think to ask.
You can also be a “chemo” buddy. Driving her to and from, as well video chatting with her during chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments, is a bigger help than you may ever realize.
Video call, visit and include her in activities
Make plans to connect with your friend on a video call or visit in-person. Make sure to check with her first and be respectful of any safety practices she and her family have in place.
When you’re with your loved one, don’t focus the conversations only around cancer. Treat your friend like you did before. Ask for their advice and input. Share news about school, church, work or the neighborhood. Ask about her family, job and what she’s been doing outside of breast cancer.
If your friend seems tired, graciously end the visit and let her know you’ll be back in touch to set up another visit. On the other hand, if your friend feels up to it, offer to take them for a drive, to a movie, a restaurant, on an errand or anything else she may be up to doing with you or with your usual group of friends.
She’ll want to have a “normal” life as much as possible, so keep inviting her to any events or activities you ordinarily go to together.
Your friendship is enough
More than any task you could carry out on your loved one’s behalf, it’s your love they need the most. Helping your loved one feel supported and strong through her breast cancer journey is everything she needs to succeed.
October is breast cancer awareness month and a great time to get your annual mammogram. To schedule at one of the four AdventHealth locations, call 913-676-2505 or visit KCMammograms.com.