Monday, January 25, 2010

When the dreaded hits close to home...

If you are like me, one of the greatest fears that lurks in the back of my mind is one day being diagnosed with breast cancer. I'm sure I don't need to explain much further the reasons why, especially if you are female reading this post. I've pretty much put myself in the category (out of defense and denial) that I will never have this dreaded disease. I mean, no one in my family has had breast cancer, so it surely won't happen to me. And, to take it a step further, it's not going to happen to anyone I personally know either. As long as I can float along in this fantasy world, life is just fine.

Well, insert reality here.

My very first friend I made in Cleveland, one of the nicest gals one could ever know, shared with me this weekend the horrible news that she's been diagnosed with breast cancer. This cancer, in particular, is a very aggressive form of cancer. To spare you all the details, I'll just give you a glimpse of her 5-day journey last week. From Day 1, going to the doctor with a suspected breast infection to Day 5, being pumped with her first treatment of chemotherapy, I'm sure I don't have to fill in the details of Days 2, 3 & 4.

My mind has been consumed with her and her family. The "fixer" in me wants to find the magical thing that I can do that will fix this problem and make everything just fine. And yet, here I sit feeling so helpless. I googled "what to do when your friend has cancer" and came across some ideas. If you have a friend who has cancer or has been through cancer, hopefully these ideas will help you. And, if you have some ideas to share, please post them.

A few years ago, I learned a valuable lesson. I was at a point in my life when I absolutely couldn't do it all. I had a newborn baby at home, a 3-year-old preschooler, and my husband went into the hospital with MRSA. It was the longest week of my life. He was there for 6 nights/7 days and we were on the day-to-day "wait and see" plan. I was so torn, wanting to be with my new baby and 3-year-old and needing to be right by my husband's side. I learned in that week what it means to be blessed by others. Our friends and family lined up to bring meals, babysit, run errands, visit Jason, etc. I had a hard time at first allowing them to help me as I didn't want to feel like an imposition or pitied. I wanted to be able to throw on my cape and conquer it all! But, a friend told me that allowing others to help me is also allowing them to be blessed. This is what the church was intended to be and I needed to let the church be the church. Isn't this true? Don't you always feel blessed when you have helped someone else? They receive the blessing of your help and you receive the blessing of knowing you have helped someone in need.

My friend has so many people who love and care for her. I pray she will quickly let go of wanting to be Super Girl and allow her friends and family to pick up the slack. I pray that God will show me the best way to be her friend and to walk by her side through this journey. For now, I will start with some of these...

Send a card or email just to let her know you are thinking about her.
Don't expect a response, know that she's read it and your contact is for her to know you care.

Volunteer to run some errands for her family:
carpooling, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.

Cook dinner for the family.

Go a step further and arrange for meals to be delivered on a regular basis for a certain period of time.
Enlist family and friends to sign up.
(Make sure you gather any nutritional information, such as allergies, dislikes, etc.)

Take her to get a mani/pedi.

Buy her some new earrings or a new piece of jewelry.
As she begins to lose her hair, this will boost her spirits some.

Offer to accompany her to the wig shop.
This may be a very private task for your friend, but at the same time, she may appreciate another female's feedback.

Offer to communicate updates for her so she doesn't have to repeat herself several times.
No doubt, she will have many friends who want to know the latest news. Compose an address book that will allow this information to be sent once and reach many people.

Bring flowers.
Who doesn't love a vase of fresh flowers?

This is a great website I've found that offers advice for the time your friend is diagnosed and through the chemo and radiation treatment.

For now, I will be in constant prayer for my friend.

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