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My bestie, 50, diagnosed with breast cancer today. What can I do to help? Anyone 'been there'? Mate or patient?

(9 Posts)
LittenTree Mon 26-Nov-12 19:21:35

She is proud, independent- and shafted. I say this because she has a lot of other issues; careful not to out her or me, but her DP walked out a few years ago leaving her suddenly stepping up from PT HCP (12 odd hr per week) and otherwise great mum to 3 DCs, to FT, struggling, trying to pay the bills (inc mortgage) AND on a renewing year contract. And DP has just announced the likelihood of his impending bankruptcy (had the grace to warn her, at least).

My friend is warm, funny, private, proud, exasperating (she's had this lump for at least a year.... and has done all but nothing, til last week, to financially protect herself from DP's bankruptcy...)

What can I do? She doesn't want us (me and another 50yr old close mate) to go around this evening as she doesn't want her 15 yr old (youngest) DC to know which is completely understandable. We are going around tomorrow during the day to see her (she has taken the week off to emotionally regroup).

In her position, what did you find most useful? She hasn't had the actual diagnosis today but we all know enough to realise that this is the Real Deal.

It's far too early to start bringing dinner round, but too early to bring a 'happy' pot plant?! What can I tell her to make sure we 'know' so we can step up to the plate as necessary?

Did you want everyone to stay away til you were 'ready'? Or did you want people around you?

What platitudes made you want to slap people? Which words of wisdom 'helped' a bit?

Your thoughts, please. I want to 'be there' for her but in an appropriate way.

graciesmall09 Mon 26-Nov-12 21:21:03

I'm probably not going to be much help but when I was diagnosed I needed some space to get my head around things. I appreciated texts from my friends to say they were thinking of me but couldn't really cope with phone calls, face to face chats. Once I got my treatment plan I felt I was able to 'cope' more. People actually telling me 'I just know you will be fine' irritated me. I know they were just trying to be nice but I just felt like saying 'And you know that how?'.

A couple of good friends sent me a lovely flower arrangement with a little note telling me they were there for me when I wanted to chat and I really appreciated this. I felt smothered by other friends who bombarded me with texts and phone calls as I felt this intrusive but I am a bit odd that way.

If she hasn't someone to go with her to her results appointment you could always offer as it is helpful to have someone as I just felt in a panic and couldn't really take everything in.

The girls on the Tamoxifen thread are really helpful and will probably give you much wiser answers. Thinking of you friend.

graciesmall09 Mon 26-Nov-12 21:22:27

sorry your friend.

LittenTree Mon 26-Nov-12 21:30:59

Thanks, that's helpful.

She didn't want any of us there tonight, but she has said yes to tomorrow afternoon so we can both be there, but it'll be before her son gets home from school.

She and I only communicate via the medium of text, anyway (she never bloody well answers her land line!) unless we can grab some face-time at work (we work 'together' but in different areas. We can go 3, 4, 5 days with no communication at all. I feel this may be too long in her current crisis).

I get that she needs to know 'the worst' before she can speak to her DCs (2 x DDs, 21 & 23, clever girls) and DS, 15. I wish I could bung her enough money to pay her mortgage- one less worry!

LittenTree Mon 26-Nov-12 21:34:23

And no, I won't say 'It'll all be fine' because, in our line of work, HCP, we know all too bloody well that it frequently isn't.

We know she has a battle ahead, god knows, and she may not win it. Esp as she hasn't dealt with this when she might have, a year ago.

I am so, so worried. But I know my worry is as nothing against her terror.

smee Tue 27-Nov-12 12:09:21

Litten, I had BC treatment in 2010. Diagnosis was by far the hardest time of all, as until you have all the pathology/ scan results you haven't a clue what your chances are.

I'd say as a friend, just be there and try and be on top of what she's being told medically. She'll need sensible sane people to talk it through with, and you can't do that unless you understand all the terminology/ treatment options. My bf was fantastic at that and also was great at insisting on coming to appointments when my dh couldn't. Gracie's right about Tamoxifen thread. Nip over there if you want to ask anything, or tell your friend to come and say hi. Lots of us on there are either going through treatment or are out the other side. If we can all do it, then so can she. Be hard work, but there chances are she'll come out the other side. smile

LittenTree Tue 27-Nov-12 12:29:01

smee and gracie- thanks. I did think the tamoxifen thread was 'just for' women on tamoxifen!

I am going over to see her in half an hour. I gather she'll get the needle biopsy results 'in a week'-what happens then? Am I right in thinking that that depends on what exactly they find? I guess that will dictate what staging she goes through, like a CT, bone scan, bloods, then a Treatment Plan will come after that?

Can you recommend a website with some answers, please? I will also ask on the Tamox thread. Sadly, she's a technophobe so won't access the wealth of support to be had on here and other sites.

It occurred to me in bed last night that between us, her gang of middle aged old bag friends, we can tag team 'helping'- I cannot imagine how, otherwise she will be able to do housework, do the shopping, keep it all together etc for her DS, 15, whilst in the midst of chemo. I also hope she'll 'accept' our help! She's very proud.

delurked Tue 27-Nov-12 12:44:21

Hi Littentree. The idea of a tag team is a good one - you know your friend best so will have a better idea of how much help she is likely to need/ accept. When my aunt (also a single mum) was having chemo her friends organised an "on-call" rota so that each day she knew that someone was available in case she suddenly became unwell and had to go to hospital - I think it was a real help that she knew that there was always someone she could call on to look after her DC/ take her to hospital. Because it was a rota I think it also made her feel like she wasn't being too much of a burden on any one person.
My other tip would be that if she is having chemo she may be really off her food so maybe you could make her some nutritious meals (e.g. stews) in small individual portions which she can freeze and reheat easily when she does feel like eating.

smee Tue 27-Nov-12 14:01:06

Tag helping sounds like a good way through. I'd say after FNB, yes they'll do scans to check for spread then a plan after that. Obviously the plan's dependent on what they find in the scans. I think Macmillan's the best site for straight talking facts. They have fact sheets on each term/ type of breast cancer and on different treatments too.

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