Dear Barb—Caring Through Cancer

Dear Barb:

A close friend of mine has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I am not sure what stage it is at, but I think it is advanced since she has had surgery and has to have chemo and radiation.  She is only thirty-five and has two little kids.  The diagnosis has been traumatic for her and her kids.  Her ex-husband has been incredibly supportive as have her parents.  I want to do what I can to support her, but I am at a loss for what to do.  Do you have any advice on how I can be a supportive friend and help her and the kids during this tough time?

Thanks so much, Cara. 

Hello Cara:

Everyone would appreciate a friend like you.  There are many ways you can aid your friend during her treatment and healing journey.  However, it can be difficult to know how to help someone while not overextending yourself.

Offer help in areas you are comfortable with, for example, if you enjoy cooking, offer to prepare a few meals and freeze them so they will be available on treatment days.  Even if your friend does not feel like eating her kids still need to eat.

Chemo affects people differently; some people are very fatigued, and others may be sick to their stomach.  You could offer to take your friend to her doctor’s appointments, and either stay with her, or pick her up when she is done.  Also offering to babysit her children would remove a huge worry for your friend.  Of course, housecleaning is another way you could help out.

These are some of the things you can propose, but that doesn’t mean she will accept.  Some people are very proud and find it hard to accept an offer of help.  They feel psychologically better if they maintain a sense of stability in their lives.  If this is the case, you can just be a supportive friend.  Be there to listen to your friend’s feelings and don’t hesitate to shed a few tears together.  For many people this is just as important as preparing a meal or cleaning their house.

If your friend is religious offer to pray for her or add her name to a healing group through your Church or religious organization.  Finally, it is crucial that you take care of yourself, or you will not be any good to your friend.  Eat well, always get a good night’s sleep and at the very least go for a walk every day.  I hope this information is helpful and I wish your friend all the best on her healing journey.  Thank for your email.

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