My Friend Has Cancer, Now What?

One of my best friends has breast cancer and it’s not fair.
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I realize that cancer isn’t discriminating but my 38 yr old vegan yoga instructor friend is really the last person I would have guessed would be inflicted. To make matters worse she’s also a single mother of three children who works full time, so managing the constant barrage of medical appointments while coordinating care for her kids is just as stressful as the disease. An aggressive insidious disease that continues to infect her body even after a full dose of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

Brandie was always a pioneer when it came to new phases in life development. We went to college together and she was the first of our friends to get married and the first of our friends to have a baby. A woman’s girlfriends can play a significant role in these type of events (throwing showers, wedding attendants, baby advice, etc) but she didn’t have many of us for expert help when starting these ventures. We were stuck in the last phase of life wondering how in the world to go along on this new one. Now she’s done it again. She’s the first of our group to become seriously ill and I’m afraid we don’t know how to do this any better than we did her other developmental stages. We have many friends in common and I’ve seen several who have kept up with her blog and helped out where they could. I have also noticed that a few seem to be hesitant and aren’t exactly sure how to respond. We’re too young to have had many peers suffering from serious illness (thank God) so in the absence of life experience, some aren’t confident about what to do. I’m definitely not an expert on the best way to approach a friend who is sick but my assumption is that it’s better to do something than say nothing.

For instance, I had no real idea how many doctor’s appointments that a cancer patient had to endure. Offering to accompany someone on one of their appointments is a great way to help. And definitely bringing meals, filling their car with gas, babysitting, running errands, cleaning the house or even washing their dog would likely be welcome gestures. Sure, it brings up feelings about your own mortality and yes, hearing intimate physical descriptions about illness can make people uncomfortable. But support is given in the form of what’s needed, not in what’s most convenient.

Personally, what’s most interesting about Brandie’s particular struggle is that through it all, life goes on. I don’t know why this surprises me – she has always been a glass-half-full kind of person – but her insistence on not letting her condition define her is inspiring. Not that she set out to try and inspire anyone, she’s just trying to get through this and out the other side to a lifetime of better health.

The month of October is breast cancer awareness month. Support those you know suffering from this disease and please, get a mammogram.

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