A close friend of mine was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Such a terrible diagnosis and I think the shock of it made me ask some stupid questions and say some stupid unhelpful things. “What stage?” Ugh… that was my first question… how insensitive. “You had a lump a year ago why did you wait to get it checked?” What a stupid thing to say! Like she doesn’t know that?! Like she isn’t kicking herself already?!
I have rethought my stupidness and am being very cautious of what I say from now on. I am not going to tell her everything will be ok because it is an empty promise. It’s one of those cliché comments people say when they don’t know what else to say. Like “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” It’s easy to throw out these generic comments (no matter how true or not) when it’s not you with the cancer.
I am not going to traumatize her with all the stories I have of people I know who survived cancer or worse yet, people who have died of cancer. I know she will not care if someone’s treatment was so awesome they pooped rainbows after their treatment was through. Ok, if they pooped rainbows I would tell her because she’s a nurse and she would probably be interested in that one…
I am not going to minimize her situation to make her feel better. The only person I would be making feel better is me. Her fears are valid.
I am not going to spiritualize the situation for her. I will pray more and preach less. She is a Christian, she is saved… I don’t need to start telling her what lesson I think God has for her in all this. She may not know till she’s through this what God is doing for her. That’s usually how I learn the lessons in my life, after the trial.
I will listen more and talk less. If she looks like hell through this treatment I won’t tell her she looks great. She’ll know I’m lying. She has a mirror. Sometimes the right thing to say is nothing.
I wanted to ask what I can do, but I know she’s overwhelmed and will say “nothing.” I’m not a sitter, I’m a doer, so next weekend I planned a cancer party for her. It’s going to be like a baby shower, but for cancer. At a baby shower, friends gear up the new mom with stuff she’ll need for this new life she’s going to have. Diapers, clothes, strollers, etc. This cancer party will be gearing her up for the new life she’s going to start. The supplements she’ll be taking and nutritional changes will be costly, so her closest friends will be buying supplements and other costly stuff like almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, etc. My daughter is going to crochet her a few hats that she may need when chemo starts. We are making it a pot luck with friends preparing healthy cancer-friendly dishes with a list of ingredients not to use and bringing recipes for their dishes. This serves a dual purpose by her friends learning what she can and can’t eat so they don’t show up with a plate of cookies from the no-no list, and educating ourselves so that when she isn’t feeling up to cooking we can prepare meals for her that she can eat and bring them over.
I’m staying positive so I can give my friend the support she needs. An important part of her recovery will be the support of her family and her friends.