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Can anyone help me support my friend who has breast cancer, not sure what to do.

(67 Posts)
CheckpointCharlie Mon 23-Dec-13 19:59:24

I have a close friend who has recently found out she has a serious type of breast cancer.
She has it in both breasts and is due to start chemo next week as the tumour in one of her breasts is too big to operate on.
She is having wig fittings and bra insert fittings as she will have a double mastectomy.

I am just not sure how to best support her, I am trying to carry on as normal but wondered if anyone had any advice.

CheckpointCharlie Mon 23-Dec-13 21:25:58


ohmeohmyforgotlogin Mon 23-Dec-13 21:30:58

Sorry to hear she has to go through all that. Would recommend just being a good friend, there to talk to if she wants that, to provide food, help with her kids if that is an issue, or just to do normal things with so her life isn't all about the cancer.

CheckpointCharlie Mon 23-Dec-13 21:47:43

Thanks ohmeohmy I am trying to send her a text every couple of days just to say hello.
Our kids are similar ages but are not really friends (she has boys I have girls) but they would rub along fine I am sure!

I just feel so helpless and wondered if anyone had done anything really different/ helpful that might be something I could do.

You are right though, I will carry on as I am for now.

hollylollypop1 Mon 23-Dec-13 21:52:14

I'm sorry to hear about your friends aweful news. Try and encourage her to speak to get breast care nurses, they are wonderful people with lots of knowledge and experience.

Maybe try doing things with her that require no effort on her part but mean you can spend time with her (going for a coffee or something).

Also, try not to treat her too differently. Talk to her as you normally would, etc xx

hollylollypop1 Mon 23-Dec-13 21:52:59

Sorry about typo's - damn autocorrect!

malteserzz Mon 23-Dec-13 22:10:56

I have breast cancer too and am going through treatment and I agree with being normal and talking about what you normally would talk about, it's good to still have a life outside cancer. Offer to go out for coffee etc when she feels up to it. Practical help is good too offering to help with the dc or pick up shopping
I hope she gets on ok with the treatment I found chemo to be not as bad as I expected really

CheckpointCharlie Mon 23-Dec-13 22:16:54

So sorry to hear that malteserzz sad but an glad chemo isn't as bad as you had expected.
As you and holly have suggested I will try and stay grounded and just be normal.

She is a proud person but crumbling a bit I think.

Get well soon malteserzz and thanks for posting.

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Mon 23-Dec-13 22:23:10

How old are her kids & how near do you live?

I had breast cancer quite a few years ago, when my kids were aged 7-18; while I was going through chemo, on the worst days it was a huge help for me that DD1 (the eldest) was able to deal with eg packed lunches in the mornings so I didn't have to get up. (DH worked a long way away & had to leave very early)

Might you be able to do something like that some of the time? Or if not, maybe be around after school? Or take hers away to yours a couple of times a week?

Fwiw, I hated talking about it - just wanted to be head down & get through. She may be different of course. Hope the chemo will do the job for her, & then subsequent treatments can clear the rest.

Spero Mon 23-Dec-13 22:26:35

Keep in touch. It is sad how many people just disappear. People I thought were friends just vanished, but people I hadn't realised cared showed that they did.

One friend sent a parcel of books and DVDs for chemo. That was lovely. Others texted on day chemo was starting - that also helped.

Most people will find the first few days or week after chemo very hard. Practical help might be good, if your friend would want that. Some people don't want to be bothered, others need a lot more hand holding.

malteserzz Mon 23-Dec-13 22:31:37

If you have any questions about treatment or anything come and ask on the tamoxigang thread you'd be very welcome

CheckpointCharlie Mon 23-Dec-13 22:35:17

Thanks so much. nicestsmile her DS's are 11 and 14 (my dd1 is 11) so I could easily help out there. And I live five mins away. They are pretty independent boys. I could easily take food round/ do the shopping etc.

spero I know what you mean re people shutting down and disappearing my bf lost her mum ten years ago and so many of our friends shunned her because they didnt know what to say. And I like the idea of stuff to do while in chemo. Might do her a box of magazines and stuff.

I am not sure how brilliant her chances are of recovering either, no one is mentioning it really but she has said it is a very rare form of cancer and it stage 3, which I assume is pretty bad. sad

CheckpointCharlie Mon 23-Dec-13 22:35:49

Oh thanks malteserzz will do smile

sockssandalsandafork Mon 23-Dec-13 22:35:59

What a lovely friend. I would just let her know you are there for the long haul, chemo, radiotherapy, follow up apps all seem like a full time job, if you can offer to drive her/accompany her Im sure she would be grateful.

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Mon 23-Dec-13 22:54:06

You sound like a really good friend, Charlie smile I'm sure she'll appreciate anything you can do to help & will be glad to know you're there for the long haul.

My chemo was on a 4-weekly cycle, with treatment on 1st Monday & 2nd Monday & then nothing until 5th/next 1st Monday. The 2nd week (Mon-Wed) was the worst by far. Her treatment may well be different but if you can find out what her schedule is it should give you a good idea of when she'll feel roughest.

Her prognosis may sound bad, but treatment & prospects have improved enormously over the last few years, so keep hopeful!

CheckpointCharlie Mon 23-Dec-13 23:02:37

That is a fantastic thought nicestsmile! I was a pretty worried but you are right and she will be getting the full Monty.

I have just texted her actually and we are going to meet for a drink in our local before new year! I can ask her about practicalities then.

Thanks everyone, it's a tricky subject to broach but pretty important to try and do it right for her sake!

malteserzz get well soon x

ohmeohmyforgotlogin Tue 24-Dec-13 08:30:39

If you want to inform yourself about cancer google information prescription service, searchable database of info from all major cancer charities.

MadeOfStarDust Tue 24-Dec-13 08:35:10

Ironing!!! do lots of ironing for her - it really drains having Chemo - and the muscles take a LONG time to get working again - the best gift for me was a friend who came round twice a week and just did all my ironing....

weebarra Tue 24-Dec-13 08:35:54

I'm currently going through treatment for bc - halfway through chemo, then the rest. If you can give her practical help with school runs etc, she might find that helpful. Otherwise, just being there is great.

Piffpaffpoff Tue 24-Dec-13 08:49:56

I took my friends children after school sometimes on the 'bad' days after chemo. Other friends did the school run for her, or took the children to their after school activities. Practical stuff is good I think.

CheckpointCharlie Tue 24-Dec-13 11:53:40

Ooh ironing yes I can do that!

Sorry to hear that weebarra hope you are cancer free very soon indeed.

Spero Tue 24-Dec-13 13:07:06

I am not sure if you can ever congratulate someone on being 'cancer free' - I think the best you can say is 'no evidence of disease'.

I know Jennifer Saunders would disagree!

I used to get so upset and angry with people who said 'o you'll be fine!' 'o the cure rates really high isn't it?'

I know that was more about them trying to reassure themselves but I found it really insensitive and it made me feel like some people were trying to shut me up or invalidate my own fears - my tumour was really aggressive so although my cancer was caught early there is always a possibility that it could come back.

Everyone responds differently and needs different things at different times. The worst thing a friend can do is just 'disappear' through fear of saying the wrong things. A good friend will say - 'right. I am here for you. I am offering to do X Y or Z. Tell me what you want, tell me if I say something that upsets you'.

Some people want the cheery upbeat 'o you will be fine stuff'. I really didn't - I didn't want to wallow but I did want people to pay due regard to the facts.

Delatron Tue 24-Dec-13 13:49:52

Just wanted to echo what Sepro is saying. I had breast cancer 3 years ago and I had lots of 'Ooh you're so brave' (how?) and 'you'll be fine' (how do they know?). It seemed to downplay the seriousness of being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. So let her talk and share her fears..

On a practical level the best help I had was Childcare and a friend who would cook me meals and just leave them on the doorstep! Those who remembered when I had chemo and sent me a text in the morning. It's nice to get out and no normal things too, so meals out. I had a session of reflexology bought for me too which was lovely.

Worst is to just disappear!

You sound like a lovely, thoughtful friend and she is very lucky to have you.

One last thing! It is a LONG process and I was on my knees after chemo, all the help stopped, people celebrate and want you to be better. Only it takes about another year to get your energy back. It's good to recognise that too.

malteserzz Tue 24-Dec-13 13:57:27

Delatron thanks for saying it takes a year to get energy back after chemo, mine finished about 6 weeks ago, had an op too since then but I've found the tiredness really frustrating ( sorry for sidetrack OP )

Spero Tue 24-Dec-13 15:18:38

I was very lucky, got my energy back almost immediately and have felt fine ever since.

Everyone will react differently - both physically and emotionally. that is why it is so important to continue to treat your friend as the individual you know and love, not a generic 'cancer sufferer' who by definition 'must' be feeling this or that.

another pet hate of mine was the cancer as 'battle' analogy. Some people would say 'if anyone can beat this its you!' - which was very sweet of them as a tribute to my resilient personality, but a bit annoying when you apply it to cellular biology. My cancerous tumour didn't give a shit if I was 'fighting' or not, it was just going to do its thing regardless. If I had died, what would the message have then been to my daughter? That I didn't fight hard enough?

Sorry, enough of my pet hates and hobby horses. Just goes to show how different we all our. If your friend is comforted by battle metaphors then go crazy.

I guess my point remains the same - don't lose sight of what the individual needs and wants. But it doesn't sound as if you will, so she is very lucky to have such a good and caring friend.

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