Dos & Don'ts for Helping a Friend Who Has Breast Cancer

best friendsThere will be many times in your life when a close girlfriend will need your love and support -- wedding day, first baby, going through a divorce. But perhaps a woman is most in need of a shoulder to lean on after she receives a breast cancer diagnosis. It will be the toughest fight of her life and helping her through it won't be easy. So I asked Stephanie Cegielski, a woman who has been at the side of several friends battling the disease, to share her thoughts on what kind of support you should be ready to give.

Here are the Dos and Dont's of helping a friend who has breast cancer.

  1. Yes, you are going to panic when you first hear the news, but get past it quickly. "It's impossible to know what to say at first," says Stephanie. "A hug and a handhold go a long way to comfort someone facing this news." Get the details and facts, but after that share a bottle of wine and talk about anything and everything else.
  2. "I feel that it's important that a friend knows you will be there throughout the process -- no matter what," says Stephanie. "I had friends whose spouses walked away during treatment because they couldn't handle it."
  3. Bring food over, pick up groceries, arrange for a house cleaning service, or take the kids out for an evening so there is some quiet time in the house.
  4. Keep negative people away from her. "She's already feeling down and doesn't need to be surrounded by other people's negativity," says Stephanie. "And certainly don't treat her like she is destined to die. Handling a cancer patient with kid gloves is demeaning and a downer."
  5. "It is important to make some days just feel 'normal' because that is something a cancer patient doesn't feel," she shares.
  6. Avoid false promises, like "everything will be okay." A cancer diagnosis is filled with uncertainty. Instead, say things like, "We will fight this together," "You are strong and we will take it day by day," or "I will be here to keep you strong."
  7. Never say things like, "I had an aunt who had breast cancer and she didn't have any problems beating it." Comparing one case of breast cancer to another is like comparing apples to oranges.
  8. Chemo treatments are brutal, so be ready to step in and help with the kids. "It's impossible to be a typical mom during treatment," she says. "So help with soccer carpool, homework, or just being a pleasant distraction is a must."
  9. You don't have to live close by to lend a hand. Call her regularly to check in but don't bog down your chats with talk about the illness. Laugh about the good ol' days, fun memories, or the latest celebrity gossip.
  10. The most important thing a friend with breast cancer needs? "A strong support group of friends," says Stephanie. "It's amazing how many people will given even when they don't know a person. As a friend, you can rally those people to help make day-to-day life easier for her."

What other ways are there to help a friend with cancer?


Image via ajusticenetwork/Flickr

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