My friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, how can I help her through this?


Q: My friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, how can I help her through this?

October 15, 2014

A breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Not only does your friend have to deal with the shock of having cancer, but she might be asked to make important decisions about treatment while she’s still processing her feelings.

Most women will tell you everything’s fine, even though they could really use your help with something small. So, try to think about how your friend will have to rearrange her life. Are there children who need picking up at school? Are there family meals to prepare? Does she need help getting around or just appreciates having someone with her?

Sometimes it’s best not to ask whether there’s anything you can do. Chances are your friend will just say thank you and won’t ask you to help. Just do something kind for your friend with cancer.

A starting point is connecting with your friend and being a good listener. She might tell you what she needs, and even if she doesn’t need anything immediately, you would have shown your support.

Many cancer patients just want things to “return to normal.” Let your friend know that you’re there for her through this difficult time and you’ll be there for her when she can resume the things you always enjoyed together. Give her something to look forward to.

Here are other ways to show your support:

Visit her in person. Cancer patients are still people, and they want to see you, talk to you and laugh with you.

If you can’t visit, call or email. Ask questions to show you care, but let your friend lead the conversation.

Tell her a joke. A good laugh can be good medicine. It will lift her spirits and distract her from the seriousness of treatment. You might help take her mind off cancer, even if just for a little bit.

Take a meal to your friend and/or to her family. It’s great if it’s a home-cooked meal, but picking up food at a favorite restaurant will be equally appreciated. Just be sure you find out if there are any foods she needs to avoid or has developed an aversion to during cancer treatment.

Give her a ride to medical appointments. She might appreciate the convenience and the company.

Bring a blanket or hat. Hospitals and waiting rooms can get cold, so it’s always nice to have something to help stay a little warmer.

Give her caregivers a break. Take them a gift. Take them out to lunch. Take over for the day. Remember, caregivers are deeply affected by cancer, too.

Stay positive. And remember, even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference to your friend.

Hill Breast Center

For more information about Baptist Health's Hill Breast Center, its team of dedicated breast imagers in San Marco, and breast care at four other locations, call 904.202.2222.

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