A good friend recently called me and shared that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Like too many others, her life was immediately turned upside down as she began her battle. My first reaction was shock, then sadness — fighting off tears to stay strong for her while chatting with her on the phone. My next reaction was to join her in battle mode.
There are many articles that give advice and strategic pointers for helping someone through her battle with breast cancer, but even with all the “strategy” and statistics, it never feels as easy or as effective as we’d like. We’ve heard this before, but there’s no quick reference guide on how to be that emotional support system. Here are a few things to help us in be supportive and supply much needed strength to our friends with breast cancer.
Don’t say; DO. Phone calls and words of encouragement are always great, but your friend now has to draw focus away from the things most important to her – her family, her career, her passions. It’s now your job to help her do the footwork in maintaining a “normal” life. I’ve listed a few below…
- Take her to treatments, sit with her, be there.
- Set up a SignUp Genius with your friends to deliver food to her and her family so she doesn’t have to cook. Make sure you are aware of the food constraints she will have during treatment.
- Pick up organic fruit and veggies so she has plenty of healthy food in the house for her and her family.
- Go clean her house (or pay someone to if you can afford it) or wash her car!
This is just everyday life “stuff” that she needs to maintain but won’t have the energy to do in the coming months ahead.
Be supportive of her kids. Not only is it important to help her keep her life as normal as possible, but its almost as important to help her children do the same. They experience this journey as a family, and moms don’t want breast cancer to rock their kids’ world as much as it rocked their own. Between appointments, surgeries and generally and often needing rest, there’s not much time or energy left for a patient to keep their little balls of energy entertained, so its great if a friend or family member steps in and accepts that challenge every once in a while. So, invite the kids over for a playdate, sleepover, out to an activity. Offer to carpool on your friend’s treatment days. These are all simple things that create a since of normalcy for kids, while providing a relief for the mom / parents.
Listen to her. As difficult as it may be, listen to her struggles. She hears advice all the time, from doctors, nurses, family, church members, other parents from school — reminders that she is sick and everyone is worried about her. Help her savor the good moments too by talking about “regular life” while also being that listening ear when she needs you. Responding to individual voicemails, emails and texts may be taxing on her as time goes on. You can also help her set up a Caring Bridge page so that friends can leave her words of encouragement and she can keep everyone updated on her journey.
Boost her confidence in her appearance. Tell her she looks good! Throw her a hair cutting party or have her doll up and take pictures. Keep her spirits high and her confidence higher. Remind her that people may expect her to be down and appear that way, but she doesn’t have to take away from her self care or beauty regimen because of breast cancer. Remind her that she’s beautiful, regardless.
Supporting a friend through something as serious and heart-wrenching as a battle with breast cancer can be hard work, but it’s worth the work. There is power in uplifting others and being of service to someone you really care about. It takes a village to win this battle!