A Word of Advice
DOs and DON'Ts handout for your friends and familyHere is some guidance for that first dreadful moment when you learn that someone you care about has breast cancer.
• Send cards and emails. Just a short little note will do. She isn't scrutinizing your words; she is just happy to know that another person is rooting for her.
• Make sure she knows you do not expect a reply to emails or phone calls.
• Send a card addressed specifically to her husband or partner. They need attention and support too.
• Send along any information about local doctors. A good referral can help her feel more confident in her choices. But once she has made her choice, support her decision.
• Take her kids somewhere fun so she can return calls and talk openly. The weeks just after a diagnosis involve many decisions that require much discussion and consideration. Kids can make that very difficult.
• Offer to spread the word for her to anyone in particular she wants to know. She may feel guilty that she is unable to call certain people personally. It will ease her mind if you can call special friends and gently share her news.
• Volunteer to do specific tasks, like bringing dinner by or dropping off some groceries.
• Be afraid to reach out even if you don't know her well. A card is always appreciated.
• Ask for too much detail or explanation; she is reporting out to many people and may need a break.
• Expect her to call you back promptly.
• In the early days, she may feel cut off by comments like: "My friend had breast cancer two years ago and she's fine!"
• Some books, like Lance Armstrong's, might overwhelm her. His cancer was extreme and his chemo experience may scare her.
• Every message counts. Your note or call may not feel like much to you, but combined with every other note or call she gets, it becomes a tidal wave of support to carry her from the initial shock into the beginning of treatment.