For Julie

For Julie, and for any of you who have a friend newly diagnosed with cancer, I’m going to dedicate next week to writing and publishing a few posts on “How to help a friend,” based on how my friends have helped me, and what has — perhaps unexpectedly — made all the difference.

Leave a comment here if you have a specific question to ask about helping a friend with a new diagnosis, or if there’s something that you’d like featured!

9 Responses to For Julie

  1. Thank you for your courage and compassion to help others.

    My mother was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma. I have basically left DC for now to be back in Maine with her and my father. It seems relatively easy to help with some of the more logsitical challenges – coordinating and understanding doctor visits, creating a healthier diet, managing household chores.

    I feel like I am struggling to help with the emotions. Sometimes I am not sure what to do or say to help deal with the fear and sadness and anger – other than “I love you and I am here”.

    What helps?

    You are in my prayers.

  2. juliepippert says:

    You are so awesome! Thanks you thank you thank you!

    It is ductal cancer and it has metastasized. They are beginning treatment with surgery, immediately. She has two children about the ages of yours. Everyone is understandably upset.

    I’m not even sure where to begin with questions. I know a lot of friendship and support is art, and everyone is individual, but I think there is some universalism here too.

    How about one thing, one day at a time. In these days after diagnosis and just before treatment, what is helpful, what might she need? Your recent post mentioned a photo you carry taken the day you were diagnosed. Is there something she might like to do or have now, for the time during treatment?

    Again, thank you for doing this. It will be immeasurably valuable to a lot of people, I think.

    Using My Words

  3. JR says:

    Delurking to say how much I appreciate your posts, and how much I respect you sharing what has helped you.

    I would have found this so valuable when my mother was newly diagnosed and undergoing chemo. Like James, I felt we did well with the practicalities, but sometimes floundered with (or worse, ignored) the emotions. (Although, James, maybe sometimes there is nothing more, or better, that you can say in the face of the pain or anger or fear than “I love you and I’m here”?)

    What was hardest with my mom was finding the balance between making it clear that I was happy to listen if she wanted to talk, and not pressuring her to talk if she didn’t want to. And often she just didn’t want to talk about the illness, or the treatment. Any ideas on how to handle this sensitively?

  4. Roads says:

    Diagnosis is a terribly scary, disorienting and appallingly shocking time. And then, more or less immediately, you have to go and tell everyone you know and love all about it. And maybe half of them will say entirely the wrong things then. It’s hard.

    My perspective on this is from a different angle, but I’d say that perhaps the biggest thing that anyone can do is to help out, and listen, and yet keep treating your friend exactly the same as you always have.

    That last part is really, really important. She’s just the same person inside, as she always was. She’s got a lot to deal with, and she will flux from wanting to talk about it, and talking about other things whilst wanting to carry on with life undeterred.

    But please do ask her how she is. Don’t make the huge mistake of not acknowledging what is happening – not mentioning it – thinking that she won’t want to be reminded. She’s simply not going to forget, so you don’t need to have any worries on that score.

    Finally, I’d say how important it is to stick with her, and not to back away. You’ll be amazed just how many friends find cancer difficult to deal with.

    It makes them feel uncomfortable, and awkard, and so they end up backing away. They might not mean that to happen, but perhaps they leave it too long before visiting, or they want to phone but simply don’t know what to say. So time passes, and the contact slips, however good the intentions.

    Don’t allow yourself to be one of those people. Stay in there, be in contact. Keep offering help. Keep listening.

    And remember, she’s still the same friend you’ve always known. She needs support.

    Best wishes to you all from London.

  5. Jacquie says:

    I love this idea of “how to help a friend”.

    One of my BFF was dx this summer with APL, a form of luekemia. I was devastated being so far away. How I helped was just calling her at the hospital, she had 5 week stays. I was told by a few people how much these calls meant to her.

  6. whymommy says:

    You guys are awesome. Feel free to continue with comments here and all next week on how to help a friend — I’m sure my readers would love to hear your ideas.

    I’ll link up any posts that you write and send me too — both on next week’s posts and the permapost at the top of this page called “How To Help a Friend.”

    It’s my hope that every woman with cancer receives love and support during this difficult time. If we can support her friends, all the better.

  7. Angela says:

    Stay in touch. Call. Send cards. ANything. I was diagnosed right before school was out for the summer. My teaching colleagues kept in constant touch through the summer. It is harder now that everyone is busy with their classes. My aunt sends me a card a week and calls me every two weeks. Don’t be afraid of intruding.

    She will need to know that people care about her children and will take care of some of their needs. Both of my children had camps right after I started chemo and was busy getting more scans. It was such a blessing to have people step up and make the specific offer to transport them. People kept them in mind when it was uniform and school supply shopping time as well.

    I am also a firm believer in precise offers e.g.

    visit tomorrow afternoon
    coffee “date”
    help with specific household chores
    something from the scheduled Costco run
    picking up child for a play date

    The other half of the offer needs to be for a specific timeframe. It is much easier to say yes/no/or how about this other time to a specific offer than to ask for help (at least for me).

    too many leftovers – running out of steam …

    I just remembered – Coeli Carr’s feature “Clumsy remarks come along with breast cancer: Patients get an earful of unsolicited advice, but would prefer a helping hand” says this very well. refers.

    – angela

  8. Ally says:

    Your generosity never ceases to amaze me, WM. What a wonderful idea. I know that many will be helped with the suggestions you give.

  9. […] I know I owe you a post… So I know I owe you a post … or, more accurately, a week of posts about how to help a friend through breast cancer.  But […]

%d bloggers like this: