My Friend has Breast Cancer…

pink02Now What?

According to, breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, about 12% of women will develop “invasive” breast cancer at some point in their lives, and over 200,000 cases will be diagnosed this year. It seems likely then, that we’ll all know someone, at some point, who’s been diagnosed with it. And while again according to, death rates have been declining since 1989, there’s still about a 3% death rate. I can’t imagine too many things more scary for a woman to have to go through, or too many things more difficult to watch a sister, mother, aunt, grandmother, or friend go through, than cancer treatment. So what can we do to help and support a friend or family member who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer? Here’s a list of 10 suggestions found on

  1. Just be there. We can hold her while she cries and listen while she talks about it. We don’t even need to speak; just letting her know we’re there can help.
  2. When we do speak, don’t say things like “everything will be ok,” or “I know what you’re going through,” unless we’ve actually been through it.
  3. Let her talk about it in as much or little detail as she wants, but try to find other things to talk about as well.  Old times, office gossip…something other than the disease.
  4. Write. Sometimes she may be so tired from the treatment that talking on the phone or in person is too much. A card, note, or email requires less energy and can be read when she feels up to it.
  5. Rotate visits. If there’s a group of us worried about her, have one go in and relay what was said to the rest of us, so she doesn’t have to keep giving people the same updates and information over and over.
  6. Don’t ask – just do. Bring a meal over, take the kids for a day, weed the garden, do the laundry. Don’t offer to do them, or ask if she needs “any help.” She does need help. As Nike says, “just do it.”
  7. Invite her out. She may not feel up to it, but on the other hand being included in lunch with the girls may be just what she needs.
  8. Don’t visit if we’re sick. Her treatment will weaken her immune system. So even if we’ve promised a visit, explaining that we’re sick and postponing it is best.
  9. Be aware that many people have allergies and consider sending balloons instead of flowers.
  10. Donate unused vacation or sick time to her if possible.  Some companies allow it, so if we weren’t going to take that week anyway, perhaps we can give it to her.

Maybe sitting and listening is what she needs from us, whether she just wants talk, or rant and rave and scream and cry. Maybe helping with the day to day household chores would allow her to rest up for the fight she’s facing, or taking the kids for the afternoon will allow her a much needed nap.  We know we are going to watch her go through a terrible time, and while we may feel there’s not much we can really do, there are two things I think ring loud and clear when it comes to helping a friend or family member get through a time like this – don’t be afraid to be there for her and don’t wait for her to ask for help. Sometimes we may not know the right thing to say, or know if we should even say anything at all. There may be times when she wants to be left alone, and times when she may want to simply sit and hold our hand. We just need to be there for her.

Tricia Doane, FizzNiche Staff Writer

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