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Best friends just been told cancer has spread, what Can I do/say?

(15 Posts)
bowtieandheels Tue 07-Nov-17 20:51:16

I’ve known her all my life, shes like a sister and was diagnosed first 3 years ago with bladder cancer, she had her bladder removed and faced all treatment and the changes to her body with amazing grace and bravery. She’s an inspiration and I’ve been to every scan result appointment with her over the last 2 she had one and I couldn’t be with her, it was bad news. It’s turned up in her liver. I’m devastated and so wish I’d been with her today. What can I say or do to help her? Looking for advice from anyone who’s been through this please.

SheepyFun Tue 07-Nov-17 20:56:48

I would say something along the lines of 'I'm sorry, that's rubbish for you'.

Depending on how ill she is at the moment, get her to write down things that need doing, then either do them yourself or get others to do them - one (temporarily) ill friend was inundated with meals from others, and managing it (he ran out of freezer space, and was struggling to remember which dish belonged to who) was a challenge he could have lived without; making him a meal sounds really kind, but was actually a burden. Organising things may be something she finds or will find difficult.

Again, depending on the prognosis, it might be worth asking if there's anything she'd like to do in the time she has left, and then helping organise it?

bowtieandheels Tue 07-Nov-17 22:45:42

Thanks for the advise x

TammyswansonTwo Wed 08-Nov-17 07:02:59

I lost my mum to stage 4 stomach cancer a few years ago. You don't grasp how heartbreaking all this is until you or someone close to you goes through it. This disease is pure evil.

Unfortunately there's very little you can say beyond "I'm so sorry". Offers of practical help to support someone through being this ill are so valuable, other than that just being there. I'm so sorry this is happening x

OnTheRise Wed 08-Nov-17 07:43:47

Acknowledge that it's awful. Be there for her if she needs you. But mostly, live in the moment. She's still here, she's still functioning, she will still want to do things and have fun and enjoy herself.

A dear friend of mine had cancer a few years ago which came back last year. It's now in her liver, spine and brain. She can't drive anymore but we still meet up, talk, enjoy ourselves. It's hard, but so worth it. I am so sorry your friend is so ill, and so glad she has a good friend like you.

helhathnofury Wed 08-Nov-17 07:47:23

I've recently found my Chemo wasn't working and surgery is only option - however not guaranteed they will do it, still waiting on a decision. Just take her lead, some days she will want to be left in peace and others a shoulder to cry on. Practical help if an when she needs it is invaluable.
I have a good friend who texts every day asking how I am - some days I just do t reply as don't want to talk about it all the time - talk about normal stuff too.
Finally the liver is a very robust organ (It is also on my liver and has been for 6 years). Obviously depends how aggressive the cancer and how it is spread around - but she should look into radio/microwave ablation. I had to talk my oncologist into referring me for that but best thing I've done. Sorry for the ramble but hope she can stay positive once initial shock wears off.

namechange2222 Wed 08-Nov-17 08:02:48

I'd advise being there but at her pace. Your friend may be grieving and scared and with all the changing emotions that go with grief. people who are grieving and may be dying do not always display the sort of emotions that many people 'expect' Lots of people feel more comfortable to sit with someone who is 'stoical' 'positive' and 'brave'. She may well not have the emotional capacity to be these things. Instead, be there for her through the anger and sorrow and bitterness which may well be there but she may not feel 'allowed to show

nickyplustwo Wed 08-Nov-17 09:48:29

I am in your friend's situation and the best advice I can give is to try to follow her lead as the way we feel about stuff changes by the minute! Most of the time I want to be treated as normally as possible but within the limits of what is physically possible. I find that people oscillate between babying me - expecting me to be knocked out in bed and needing meals on wheels or expecting that I can walk a mile or run up a hill (I can't!) - when the truth is that I'm capable of doing most things, but with some concessions or modifications (like going in a lift instead of stairs, being dropped off instead of walking from a car park etc). Emotionally it varies - again, mostly I want to be normal and forget about having cancer when I'm with my friends. But I do want them to acknowledge what I'm going through, ask if I want to talk and listen if I do, without judgement. I don't expect them to understand (actually if people are 'telling' you how you're feeling or trying to second guess you, it's pretty annoying) and it's also ok for you to say that you don't know what to say and you might not get it right, but you're there for whatever they need. The other thing to know is that just because cancer isn't curable, doesn't mean it's not treatable. My oncologist explained that treatments can help you live with cancer like it's a chronic illness; at some point you know you're going to run out of options, but this diagnosis doesn't always mean sudden death. It's still horrendous, but the idea of living with it is still worth hanging on to. I value people who I can be honest and be myself with and rely on when the shit hits the fan, emotionally and practically. You sound like that kind of friend.

iVampire Wed 08-Nov-17 10:05:07


If this was routine check-up scan, then I’m guessing that she does not feel ill at the moment.

I think the most important thing to do is to continue to talk to her - do they need to do more tests and do they have a treatment plan?

I am newly diagnosed with a form of leukaemia, and the early bit - when the medical team still needs to find out more, and when future treatments are a set of maybes rather than an actual plan - can be gruelling because of the uncertainties.

As you are her regular companion, find out when she next has appointments and move heaven and earth to go with her.

And try to match her mood as much as you can. I don’t mean to suppress your feelings, but if she happens to be having a good day (denial, distraction, or just mind full of something completely different for a while) she might not welcome concern, no matter how well intentioned. Though as you are already a star for all your support this far, I bet you have already got that down to a fine art.

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Wed 08-Nov-17 10:18:54

I think you've already had the best advice OP - take your friend's lead.

Be there for her, whether that means being a shoulder to cry on or somebody to go out & had fun with. Everybody is different, but most will have good days and extremely bad days.

I've been through it with both of my DPs - both whilst in their 60's, so relatively young to be contemplating the end of your life. DDad was mostly very positive, saying things such as "today I'm OK, and tomorrow I will be too" and "just you wait, I'll outlive you all yet" grin.

DMum was not, she found it incredibly hard to be positive and focused a lot (understandly) on what she would miss in the future. Seeing grandchildren (she only met 4 out of an eventual 7, and one was just a very small baby), watching them grow up, her dog who she had taken on as a rescue and was still relatively young (she needn't of worried, DB & SIL adopted him & he has lived a life of luxury ever since). The retirement she had planned (she was still an employee when she died) and so on, and so on.

There is right and wrong way for the sufferer to feel about things, and all anyone else can do is be sensitive to the way they feel and support them in whatever way helps them best.


SantasLittleMonkeyButler Wed 08-Nov-17 10:20:15

Grrr - please excuse the typos! I'm not at my best today.....

pudding21 Wed 08-Nov-17 11:02:27

You've had some great advice already OP. i lost my best friend to terminal breast cancer 8 years ago. I accompanied her to a lot of her chemo appointments and in the end held her hand while she died. It was a huge privalige to be there for her when she needed it. She was a fighter, very very resilient and didn't ask for help much. Sometimes she just wanted me to sit and chat to her while she laid on the sofa feeling shocking post chemo. We didn't talk much about her death and her fears etc, right up until the end even though she had bone and liver mets she was positive. She wanted to live as normal a life as possible. 2 days before she dies she returned home from a trip to see her brother in Dubai.

I think the best advice is take her lead, occasionally ask if she wants to talk about anything and let her know, whenever, whatever you will be there for her. My friend liked to go out and party still, even when she felt so sick, she wanted to live her life to her fullest. I was there in a supporting role. If she had wanted to go out, stay at home, not see anyone, i would have followed her lead.

Little nice treats go a long way too smile

I am sorry for all those on here going through this experience, or have family or friends who have cancer too. Its an awful disease.

bowtieandheels Wed 08-Nov-17 11:34:04

Thank you all so much, and hellhathnofury you’ve made me feel much more hopeful that she can fight this and thanks for the tip, I’m sorry you’re having to live with this horrible disease too. I left her in peace yesterday but feel like I should go and deliver hugs and love today.

redexpat Wed 08-Nov-17 12:03:24

You sound as if you're doing it already, but I think comfort in, dump out is an excellent motto in these situation. article here

bowtieandheels Wed 08-Nov-17 16:00:08

Am so appreciative to you all for taking the time to share your experiences, this has really helped, thanks so much!

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