This post is brought to you by Walgreens and SheKnows Media. All opinions expressed here are mine.
What To Do When A Friend Has Cancer
You want to be the answer, but you can’t provide the solution. You want to help so desperately that you lay awake at night wishing there was a formula.
It all started back in 1991 in the sweltering heat of Texas. I usually say nothing good grows out of the sweltering heat, but this time something grew that would continue to grow long after 1991. There was this blond girl with an infectious laugh. She was captivating from across the room. She would smile and laugh and talk to anyone that would listen in fact she would talk even if no one was listening. She wasn’t the type that didn’t stand out. She is the girl that people look at with disbelieving eyes and then just as suddenly a smile would fall over their lips.
We fell in love on that trip. The kind of best friend love where we couldn’t spend enough time with one another. We were like peanut butter and jelly before anyone had nut allergies. We spent our entire school trip giggling, singing, finishing each other sentences. There was always happy music in our story that was until the music stopped.
The day the song ended was a day somewhere between the start of our friendship, make up and the breakups, and weddings to our forever guy, the daily calls, and the trips around the world. I can’t think of a single time when we didn’t speak to one another. That day was the first day that her voice lost its joy.
Her laughter no longer melodically tumbled out but it was forced like air out of an obstructed vent. She told me, “You aren’t going to believe what happened to me now. ” I was busy typing while trying to get dinner completed before the “waking hour.” I said, “Probably not.”
Then she told me. She said the words that could end our song forever. The words you never want to hear. It was with a shaking voice, and three hard breaths that I heard her say: “I have breast cancer.” I tried to calm my voice, I turned off the stove, and I listened to her cry.
My mind tried to process the why and the how while my heart felt broken. How could someone so young be facing something so horrible? How was I going to help?
What To Do When A Friend Has Cancer
The first thing you can do is listen. Do not interrupt. Do not ask questions, just listen. I pulled out an envelope that evening while we were on the phone and I wrote a list while she cried. I noted all of the things she was worried about. The people in her life who mattered. The things that mattered to her. What I heard her say that evening was that she was scared. She was scared for her life, but she was also upset about not being the wife, daughter, sister, and friend she wanted to be while she fought cancer. I told her I loved her and we were in this together just as we have been into everything together for the last 20 plus years.
I called her the next day and I offered the following:
- Ongoing support in the forms of daily interaction (phone calls, texts, cards, packages).
- We would come up with a plan.
- Do research to figure out the timeline and the process.
- Offer my help making sure she was taken care of and she was able to take care of her husband.
- Listen and take every call even if it wasn’t the right time to talk.
- Think of things to help keep her mind off of her treatment.
- Be positive every time you speak.
- Remind her how much she means to you and those around her.
- Tell her how pretty she is even though she doesn’t feel that way.
- Share all the good times and do your best to get them to laugh.
- Pick out something to look forward to and plan the event/trip.
- Help her pick the best services. She will need services that can help her manage information, medication, and insurance.
Walgreens can also be a supportive partner in the cancer journey and has excellent cancer support services including the following:
- You can access your file including medication history anywhere.
- You can have your prescriptions shipped to any of their conveniently located stores. They will even deliver it to your home.
- Manage all your medications in one place online.
- Communicate with your doctors.
- Help you manage side effects.
- Give you tips to help you stay on your medication schedule.
- Refill reminders.
- Provide financial assistance coordination. They can help you figure out how to locate and apply for assistance programs that may help to lower medication copays.
- Consultation with a Pharmacist.
Here are some things you can do to help a friend in need:
- Offer to go to doctor’s appointments.
- Sit with her during chemo.
- Clean her house.
- Do her grocery shopping.
- The best thing I did for my friend was fly to see her.
- Bring over dinner.
- Schedule time to visit.
- Tell her you are running the following errand do not ask if you need anything just offer to do tasks.
- Help her husband or partner so they can be there for her.
- The second best thing I did for her was filling her freezer with meals she could throw in the crockpot or oven without much effort. This accomplished several things she was able to feed her husband which was important to her. She would eat. She also learned how to cook better. When she ate the meals we made she was reminded that I loved her.
These are some of the meals we made together. They are meals that she still makes and loves. I wished I could have been there in person for her every day, but we do not live in the same state and I have three children. I do know she appreciated that I made a point every day to remind her of how much she means to us and how proud we are of her.
I know that we can’t make cancer go away as friends but helping our friends get the best possible care and providing as much support to them as they navigate their journey back to health makes a world of difference.