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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.

Delatron Tue 24-Dec-13 16:26:15

Yes everyone is very different. Malteserzz, I found every few months or so I noticed I had a bit more energy . I probably just overdid it too. I wanted to get fit and strong so did loads of running, probably too much. Just look after yourself, surgery can wipe you out. Your body needs lots of protein to help recover.

Sorry for the sidetrack OP.

I hate the constant use of the word 'battle' and 'fighting' cancer too. It is all down to luck whether you survive or not.

OP, I hope your friend gets through this. Your support will be so helpful to her.

CheckpointCharlie Thu 02-Jan-14 20:52:39

Please don't worry about side tracking!!

I have offered to do ironing and looking after the boys but she has declined so far. I will be going round on my day off though once a week to make her a cup of tea and hang around a bit. (As long as she wants me to)
She did have some excellent news though, she has a benign cyst in her other breast and it hasn't spread to any other part of her body which was a big worry as her tumour is quite big. So hurray for that.

Thanks delatron for your ideas and info. spero I have just kind of let her rant and have said the odd 'fucker' here and there... grin but she is very pragmatic so it isn't too tricky to chat with her.

Hope you feel well again soon malteserzz thanks

Spero Thu 02-Jan-14 21:03:50

That sounds very supportive and kind. I hope it will help your friend, it would have helped me.

Some people get so scared by the whole cancer thing that they just don't want to deal with it and won't let anyone rant. Sometimes that's all you want, you don't want answers (for there are none), you just want someone to give you the invaluable gift of their presence and their interest.

weebarra Thu 02-Jan-14 21:16:15

You are so right Spero. I get so fed up with the "you're so brave" nonsense. I'm not at all brave, but I do have three small children and life doesn't stop just because you have cancer!
Listening and being there should not be underestimated!

Spero Thu 02-Jan-14 21:33:07

I actually had someone come up to me at work and look at me all goggle eyed and say 'this is the worst thing I could imagine happening to me'. (i.e. he had just found out I had cancer!) You are so brave!

Er, thanks. Bravery is when you have a choice. You can't just fall to pieces when you have a child. Well, you can, but its not going to do anyone any good.

I do know that most people mean well when they say this kind of stupid stuff but part of me thinks it is just part of their deflection strategy.

I wish more people had just said ' o that' s completely shit. What can I do'.

Instead of 'if anyone can beat this its you!'

What the fuck does that even mean? I have no control over individual cells in my body!

CheckpointCharlie Fri 03-Jan-14 20:13:52

I know what you mean, it's total bullshit isn't it, they might not be able to beat it. I blimmin hope she does though. She is really strong so far, possibly not behind closed doors but she is very to the point about it all.

She had her first chemo today, I am going to take her some tonic water and peppermint tea round tomorrow as I think it might help with the nausea?
Does anyone know anything that alleviates it at all?

Footle Fri 03-Jan-14 20:23:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Spero Fri 03-Jan-14 20:30:12

I thought the anti nausea meds were supposed to be so good now that she shouldn't be suffering from that?

For two of my chemos I threw up once and felt a bit queasy for a few hours, but I suspect the first one was because I ate a massive tea just after the chemo was administered and my body didn't know what hit it.

Worse than nausea for me was the horrible taste in my mouth. That lasted a few days. Boiled sweets helped.

Of course, don't make promises you can't keep but you don't sound like the kind of person who would.

I am a little eyebrow raising at the notion that you will find it draining. It is rather more draining for the person actually having the chemotherapy.

Personally, I found the psychological impact far, far worse than the physical impact. It didn't actually 'feel' that bad, I just felt bleeuuurrg for the first few days. But knowing that I had subjected my body to such toxic chemicals, watching as ALL my hair fell out was hard.

CheckpointCharlie Fri 03-Jan-14 20:56:18

Thanks footle I am off work on Mondays and have the school holidays so I will be able to give her a bit of time. At the moment I am texting her and meeting up her and there which should be ok and hopefully maintainable. Thanks for mentioning it though.

Good point spero, I am sure she will be on all those types of drugs too. It is so so helpful getting first hand experiences so have an idea of what it all feels like. Thanks for sharing!

Footle Fri 03-Jan-14 21:57:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Spero Fri 03-Jan-14 22:01:14

Sorry. don't want to be snotty.

Just remembering my mum saying 'o I am so worried!' and it doesn't help. The hospital were a bit surprised I didn't want anyone with me for my results etc but I couldn't deal with her distress on top of my own.

If you are finding it draining or upsetting, please try to keep it from your friend.

MomOfTwoGirls2 Fri 03-Jan-14 22:05:15

Hi OP, you sound a lovely friend. As she goes through her chemo, she will need her friends.

I'm another one under going chemo at the moment.

I am lucky that I get quite a lot of practical help from my friends / moms of my DCs friends which I appreciate with all my heart. I have no family closeby.

The times I need help the most are
- day 3 and 4 after chemo. I usually feel wrecked on these days. This varies from person to person, but usually there is a pattern.
- day 7 to 12 after chemo all patients will have low immune system. Staying away from crowds of people and also out of bad weather helps.

The practical help that really helps me are
- school runs, especially mornings
- drop or collect DC from hobbies
- after school play dates
- prepared food, ideally something that freezes well. I always make sure DC are fed. But sometimes I can't face preparing food for myself.

Before I started chemo, a friend sat down with me and went through my DCs schedule, and pointed out where she could help me. That was really helpful. It was also my first step towards getting organised...

The emotional help
I usually feel quite well on the week before my next chemo.
I look forward to meeting with friends for coffee/lunch/dinner, etc. once or twice that week. Usually with a group of friends, and we keep conversation light, so they are fun times. Fun times are VERY important, as is having something nice to look forward to.
Another little thing that is nice, some of my friends sends me good luck texts on days I get chemo.

Finally, I found it much easier to accept help when people offered specific help. Eg, can I take the girls an afternoon after school, can I drop or collect them to school/hobbies, can I drop over dinner and what do you all like to eat... I gratefully accept these offers. Or another good question, what is going on this/next week, what help do you need this/next week?

But I have yet to ask for help from anybody who made a general 'if there is anything at all I can do...' offer, no matter how sincere the offer.

I am truly blessed with my friends.

Spero Fri 03-Jan-14 22:07:20

Yes I agree. You usually get a small dose of steroids with the chemo which power you through the first few days but they you can crash quite badly. I definitely felt worse days 4-7 then started slowly coming out of it.

CheckpointCharlie Sat 04-Jan-14 00:12:33

footle I know what you mean! I have felt really overwhelmed by her diagnosis and worried about her. It also puts so much into perspective, work stresses etc are just nonsense when I think of her.

Thanks mom I think I will able to offer her the fun times primarily! her DSs are fairly self sufficient now and she has so far said she doesn't need any help with housework as she wants to carry on as normal.

I will continue to text her and drop round with bits and bobs then I think. My DH is friends with her DP so I have told him he needs to take him out for a beer from time to time so he can vent as well.

Thanks again for helping me. smile

Drywhiteplease Mon 06-Jan-14 16:44:10

checkpoint I'm in the same boat as you. One of my dearest friends found out she has bc over Christmas. I am having a cuppa with her tomorrow . This thread has really helped me know what to do and say. Thank you all. C

CheckpointCharlie Mon 06-Jan-14 20:51:06

Hi drywhite ('Ill have one of those too please!)

Oh poor your friend, what a shock. Glad this has helped.

I popped over to see my friend yesterday, she looks ok but is knackered.

Drywhiteplease Mon 06-Jan-14 22:16:42

I have open house policy when it comes to tea, serve a very nice biscuit too checkpoint. Keep in touch. Will see how my friend is tomorrow.

Spero Mon 06-Jan-14 22:27:03

I hope they both get through the treatment without too many side effects. With love and support it is amazing what you can cope with. It was horrible at the time, but the time does pass remarkably quickly and hopefully you come out the other side.

Drywhiteplease Tue 07-Jan-14 18:50:25

Ladies...thanks so much.
I had a cuppa with my friend today. I let her talk. I didn't ask too many questions. I gave her a definite day I could help with lifts for her dcs. I said that my way of dealing with difficult stuff is with humour and that she was to tell me if it wasn't appropriate. Our relationship has always been silly. I then told her I'm planning to make her a hideous collection of turbans that she will have to wear. Also suggested that since we are both small in the boob dept that we try to get a Bogof on reconstructive surgery. Generally we laughed more than anything and took the Mickey out of each other as usual.
She's scared though. It is shit .
Sorry for hijacking Checkpoint but your thread has really helped.

sashh Wed 08-Jan-14 05:46:31

Glad you had a nice day together, it is better to laugh and be as normal as possible.

Ask to go with her for the prosthetic fitting, I went with my mum and she said afterwards she was glad she wasn't alone.

My mum then went with my grandmother, her MIL who she had a fraught relationship with to say the least, for her fitting.

Wigs vary in price, so do the products to care for them so do some research on them if she opts to buy. Areas with large numbers of orthodox jews often have good wig supplies and hairdressers who can style them.

Have a sweepstake on what colour her hair will grow back, my mum's mousy with lots of grey grew back black, then the second time it has come back a uniform dark grey.

My mum has had great support both from the local hospice and a 'group' which I think the hospice organised but was all women with/recovering from BC.

The hospice ran a 10 week 'course', basically you went for a day, took part in some arts / crafts activities or some physical such as tai chi, had a nice meal with a glass of wine and then a talk from various groups, their favorite seemed to be the guide dog, well the dog didn't talk but the owner did and told them about training and various tales of his dogs.

This was for any woman with breast cancer to attend.

Another thing was organised through a charity was housework and in particular ironing. There might be something similar or maybe you could help out.

With her sons I think if you could take them one day a week for a meal and play in the PS whatever / xbox for an hour of two. It would be good for them to have an adult to talk to who is not their mum. They will be scared too.

You don't mention if your friend has a dh / dp, apparently I was the only person who asked my dad how he was coping.

weebarra Wed 08-Jan-14 12:22:58

My friend came with me for my wig fitting which was great. I'm also going to a look good,feel better session at my local Maggies Centre, I've heard these are great.

CheckpointCharlie Wed 08-Jan-14 21:36:53

No problemo at all drywhite!

CheckpointCharlie Sat 11-Jan-14 23:37:50

If anyone is still about, does anyone have any advice re having a foul taste in your mouth from chemo? And thrush in her mouth.

My friend has both sad we met up last night in the pub and she had a couple of (soft) drinks but couldn't really drink either.

Chewing gum helped a bit but I wondered if anyone had any good ideas about any kind of drink that helps with that. I remember it from being pregnant and it was truly rank but didn't know if there are any solutions!?

Spero Sat 11-Jan-14 23:46:38

I used to suck on boiled sweets but not sure I got much relief. But I did find the side effects diminished by day 4 and were pretty much gone by day 7.

The worst for me was constipation, sorry if tmi! The drugs they gave me didn't seem to have any effect so it wasn't until chemo 3 that I worked out that the best thing was to take senokat the day before chemo started.

BackforGood Sun 12-Jan-14 00:07:12

What I found is that everyone is different in what they want people to do.
Something I really valued was a friend who took my (teen) dc to a couple of things they couldnt do on public transport or lift share. To me it was really important that as much of their lives carried on as normally as possible and tney didnt miss out just because I wasnt able to drive after surgery. Some peple only wanted to 'be seen' visiting I think.

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