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Helping someone through cancer treatment

Beer babe

TRIBE Member
A very close friend of mine has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be going through 6 months of chemo followed by a month of radiation. I really want to be there for her in the right way, and am looking for some tips/advice on how i can best help her and be the best friend i can to her.

Would love to hear from those of you who have gone through treatment or have been there for someone who has.

Thanks so much.
 

Hawk Eye

TRIBE Member
One of my best friend passed away in November from Colon Cancer :(

When she was ill, I would msg her and just ask her how she's doing and that I haven't heard from her in awhile.. She then msed me and i just let of make the move if she wanted to see me or not. She did want to meet for coffee in May and her complexion was very shocking.. I couldn't look at her for a bit.

All you can do is be there. Let your friend know that you are available.. A lot of ppl who are sick don't want to be negative or feel that they are a burden with anyone. So ust reach out to her and let it be known that she can come to you with anything. :) That's all you can do.

With chemo/radiation they obviously lose their hair.. with my friend she was so concerned about her appearance :( She didnt want ANYONE to see her bc of how she looked..so frail.. so skinny.. When I saw her she had hair but she was so skinny.. it was insane.. The last few months of her life she had no hair.

Anyway.. Hope your friend will be okay :) I know a lot of woman who have survived Breast Cancer.. they are on my sisster dragon boat team!
 
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Beer babe

TRIBE Member
Thanks Hawkeye! i have been offering to be with her for appointments or be with her for anything i know she's uneasy about. Her mom has been coming down for a lot of these appointments (her mom's a nurse and a breast cancer survivor).

I don't want to be too optimistic and say he's definitely going to beat it, but seems her chances are fairly good. I just want to make sure i'm there in the way that best benefits her (not what makes me feel better doing, if that makes sense).

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, i remember you and Nemesis talking about that while it was happening. :( I'm sure she appreciated all you both gave her.

Any other tips/suggestions are very welcome.
 

Persephone

TRIBE Member
My suggestions: make sure you are vaccinated for things like influenza. Your body will be strong enough to withstand those infections, but you can be a carrier and pass them on to her while her immune system is in a weakened state. Limit your/her exposure.

Be even more careful about washing your hands when visiting her, for the same reasons as above.

Don't treat her very differently.

Be a source of laughter and general hilarity. Visit with board games and funny movies or stand up comedy.
 

derek

TRIBE Member
All you can do is be there.
that about sums it up. everyone is different, some will want lots of attention, others like to be left alone. see what she wants / needs and oblige. don't be pushy though because that can be as equally upsetting as being absent when she wants company..
 
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lucky1

TRIBE Member
Yes, I agree with Persephone, don't visit if you have a slight sniffle or sore throat, since chemo wipes out your immunity, and get the flu shot! (not for you but to protect you from bringing germs around her)

I am living with Cancer (in remission), mine is a rare blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma i did about 5 months of chemo, then had s stem cell transplant in 2010.

It is really overwhelming when you are diagnosed and all of a sudden your life revolves around medical appointments, treatments and feeling shitty. I am going to assume she is younger (like 30 something?) As a young adult with cancer stuff really isn't geared for our age (support groups etc) and doctors are used to dealing with older people so it is a weird experience. You go from being in the most productive time of your life (career building, watching your friends all having babies, having fun) to being a sick person.

Friends are well meaning and kept asking what they could do to "help" but it can be hard to try and think of ways they can help you. Or if people wanted to visit at times I felt really shitty, it made me feel pressured to look ok, or be a good host, put on a brave face, which was hard at times.

Instead of just asking to help in a general way, I am going to suggest you think of very basic things that could make her life easier and ask about those specifically.

Ideas such as- grocery shopping for foods that she can tolerate, and preparing food to take over for her. Chemo really changes your taste for things, and if things make you sick you can get aversions to that. I loved vitamin water, and wanted simple food like chicken and rice. For a while I had a Tim Horton breakfast sandwich every day before chemo and have not eaten on since!

Ask if she needs help with mundane tasks like laundry / cleaning.

Download a bunch of movies or music for her to keep busy

Keep in touch; send some nice cards (get well soon, thinking of you) in the mail so she gets some encouraging surprises. I really liked that.

Don't suggest herbal cures, or talk about friends of a friend who died of cancer (really sounds dumb but when people don't know what to say they will look for stuff that maybe relates and it is not helpful) It’s ok if you don’t know what to say. Be realistic with what she is going through, it does suck, it is hard, acknowledge that and be open to listening if she wants to talk

Appearance changes may or may not be dramatic. I didn’t think it would bother me to loose my hair since I’ve had it very short for years. But, when I did loose my hair I hated that all of a sudden all the attention was on my face, which was very bloated from the high dose steroids I was on (called “moonface”) I had no neck and it was red an blotchy. Ick. I wore a lot of hoodies! I bought some nice hoop earrings that made me feel more like a girl. A few friends bought me some nice hats; I was bald in the summer though so it is a bit harder to find stuff.

I heard a few times “you don’t look sick”. It is because steroid make you gain weight and give you a rosy glow that gets interpreted as “healthy” so not everyone who has cancer becomes gaunt and bald… lol.

I think somewhere along the way most young people start to feel isolated and want to connect with other young people with cancer.

I become connected with this group Young Adult Cancer Canada and it ihas really helped my husband and I move into "survivor mode" getting past the trauma and on with our lives. I attended one retreat, and we attend the survivor conference.

Young Adult Cancer Canada . Home . Our mission is To help every young adult dealing with cancer in Canada by providing inspiration, information and support
 

Hawk Eye

TRIBE Member
Great advice Lucky.

As i stated.. when I saw my friend, i didnt know she would be super skinny so her appearance was shocking to me. What was the hardest was to have a conversation with her. Because.. what do you say? most ppl when they start a conversation ask 'how are you'.. and well i already know how she's doing. I also didnt want to ask her anything to do with her illness, bc i dindt know what she had. I just put the peices together that she had some form of cancer. Ithought it was stomach cancer and found out in September that it was Colon. Luckily, I can talk about anything, so i just gossiped about mutual friends to keep her entertained :D WHat i hated was her telling me how 'healthy i look'.. and how 'great i look'.. when she was all sickily.. ughh.. but that's my friend.. so super positive.

sorry i went on a babbling spree.

Lucky's suggestions are great. :)
 

lucky1

TRIBE Member
Hawk Eye, it's normal not to have the right words cancer is shitty no one knows what to say.... sometimes just saying, "i don't know what to say" is the right thing to say! If you are ok with it, ask if she wants to talk about it. Sometimes just giving someone an honest opportunity to really talk is the right think. The good old "how are you?" question is used in our society kind of like "hello" in that we just expect an "i'm fine" or something back as a response and not a honest, "things are really shitty and this is why...." answer.

I like the idea of bringing boardgames or something over. My friend had a major orthepedic operation and was house bound for months. We would go over and she would suggest playing scrabble. She got to be really good at it.. :)
 

Beer babe

TRIBE Member
Oh my goodness, i totally missed that you guys had posted in here. Lucky1 thank you so much for the very thoughtful advice. You gave me some great ideas! Thank you for taking the time to post all this.

I hope you're doing okay too, Lucky1, I can't imagine how much this must totally change your life.
 

junglisthead

TRIBE Member
A very close person just came through stage 4 ovarian cancer. I helped her re arrange her lifestyle and she firmly believes it helped her through.

The first thing is, stay away from meats during process. Your body consumes more energy digesting it, when the immune system is already at an all time low, it needs as much energy as possible.

Secondly, load up on vitamin C and D... Either through pills or foods, lemon water every day! Huge! These vitamins will help boost the immune system

Thirdly, get liquid iodine from herbel store. Everyone I know that consumes this during cancer has seen positive results!

Lastly, baking soda... This common item is such a miracle .... Some have made a mayple syrup baking soda recipe found online

Cancer makes you realize the abuse and lack of proper maintenance we put our bodies through
 
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junglisthead

TRIBE Member
A very close person just came through stage 4 ovarian cancer. I helped her re arrange her lifestyle and she firmly believes it helped her through.

The first thing is, stay away from meats during process. Your body consumes more energy digesting it, when the immune system is already at an all time low, it needs as much energy as possible.

Secondly, load up on vitamin C and D... Either through pills or foods, lemon water every day! Huge! These vitamins will help boost the immune system

Thirdly, get liquid iodine from nutritional store. Everyone I know that consumes this during cancer has seen positive results!

Lastly, baking soda... This common item is such a miracle .... Some have made a maple syrup baking soda recipe found online

Cancer makes you realize the abuse and lack of proper maintenance we put our bodies through
 
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