Breast Cancer Awareness: How to Help a Friend
Want to help a friend or loved one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer? Forget the standard vague offers: "I'm here if you need me" and "Let me know what I can do." The Breast Cancer Network of Strength suggests asking a friend, "What are the things you hate doing most?" Then take on some of those tasks. Keep reading for more ideas from caregivers and survivors...
Make Specific Offers: Say, for example, "I'm going to the store right now. What can I bring you?" says Kimberly Stump-Sutliff, R.N., an advanced oncology clinical nurse specialist and assistant medical editor for the American Cancer Society. "It's really hard to ask for help."
Log On: Send links to Bright Pink's amazing resources for young fighers and survivors, as well as any compelling news articles you may find. Many patients like to read up on treatment options so they feel better prepared to make choices in the doctor's office. Others may find personal stories inspiring. (Check first to make sure your friend wants the articles, though. Some women don't.)
Play Detective: Put together a list of great doctors and other resources in your area. After Jodell Gahr was diagnosed with breast cancer, she says, "I didn't know where to turn." Research the best breast-cancer support groups and find out when and where they meet.
Chore Her Up: Mow the lawn, do laundry, run errands, gas up the car...anything to assist with the day-to-day tasks that can be overwhelming. "A friend offered to come clean my bathroom whether I wanted her to or not," says Christina Koenig, a breast-cancer survivor and spokesman for the Breast Cancer Network of Strength.
Pick Up the Phone: You make the calls, so she doesn't have to. That way you can take care of any long-distance charges and give your friend a chance to unload. Phone calls can really boost moods, says breast-cancer survivor June DeJonge.
Be a Driving Force: Volunteer to chauffeur your friend to chemotherapy and pick her up afterward. Many breast-cancer patients like some company after getting treatment.
Become Wig Wise: "Losing hair is the most traumatic thing," says breast-cancer surgeon Jocelyn Dunn. Get referrals for the best local wig stores and offer to go wig shopping if your friend loses her hair during chemotherapy.
Don't Forget the Kids: Provide babysitting and rides for her children.
Create a Cancer Care Package: A few thoughtful objects could lighten her load and brighten her mood.
Find Some Fresh Air: Go on relaxing walks with your friend whenever she's up to it.
Take Her Away: Chip in for a group gift of a weekend getaway with her closest pals—then make sure the patient doesn't have to lift a finger, suggests Koenig.
Share Your Time: Bring movies and favorite TV shows over to your friend's house—and watch them with her. "Do the things she used to do [with her]," says Stump-Sutliff.
Cook Up Kindness: Help provide healthy dinners for your friend and her family. You could even coordinate with other friends to organize a dinner drop-off schedule. Leave an ice chest on the front porch so people can drop off food without ringing the doorbell and disturbing your friend, says Dunn. "It's best not to make the patient entertain guests." One caveat: Chemotherapy can make "some things taste funny," says survivor DeJonge. So don't spend money on expensive wine if your friend has lost her taste for it. Also, consider packaging some small single servings, since chemotherapy patients usually don't want to eat large portions.
Go High-Tech: Now that you know how to help, set up an interactive calendar for your friend and get to work! Lotsa Helping Hands uses built-in forms and allows a coordinator to add specific needs for meals, rides and shopping. This way everyone spends their energy helping, not scheduling.
To find out how you can help others in your community, check out our Volunteer Resources.