How can we, as girlfriends, be a better friend?
My girlfriend Karen (in the pink boa, of course!) lost her husband unexpectedly then found out she had breast cancer. She credits her sisters and girlfriends for helping her through this terrible time in her life. (She now supports cancer and heart disease research.)
It’s tough to know what to do when a friend finds out she has cancer. We’ve addressed this topic before and it unfortunately stays a trending topic. So, we are thankful for the following guest blog by Laura Mosiello, LCSW-R, is Director of Women’s Cancers for CancerCare.
Be a better friend: Supporting a Girlfriend Affected by Cancer
When a friend is affected by cancer, it can be tough to know how to best support her. Whether it is she herself or a family member who has been diagnosed, she needs you more than ever. These are some ways you can support her, every step of the way.
Know when to talk, when to listen, and when to change the subject. Ask your friend how she’s coping, and let her know you’re available to listen if she wants to talk. Once you open up the conversation, though, let her take the lead. Don’t push her to talk if she doesn’t feel like it. She may not want or be able to discuss her feelings, but she’ll definitely appreciate your willingness to listen.
Remember, too, that sometimes people get tired of constantly talking about illness. If your friend wants to talk about lighter topics, follow her cue. Cancer, while a serious topic, doesn’t need to completely dominate the conversation.
Offer some help. With so much going on, people coping with cancer often appreciate help with practical things like household chores or running errands. Offer your help in areas that highlight your expertise, such as making follow up phone calls, researching information or organizing friends to accompany her to treatment. You may also ask your friend to tell you what she needs most during treatment.
Make her feel comfortable. Accompanying your friend to doctor’s appointments or treatment might make her feel reassured. Let her know you’re willing to do these things if she would like you to. In the event she’s hospitalized, bring her a blanket, comfy slippers, a magazine—anything that you think would make her feel more comfortable. If she’s homebound, offer your company.
Help her adjust to changes in appearance. For example, if her hair begins to fall out from treatment, she might ask you to play “personal shopper” for an afternoon and help her find a wig or oversized square scarves. If she doesn’t ask for the shopping support, though, follow her lead and stay mum.
Provide her with additional support. As much as you may want to help, you can’t be your friend’s sole source of support. There are many organizations that provide free help to people affected by cancer. For example, CancerCare provide free counseling, support groups and financial assistance nationwide. Let your friend know about resources you find that may be helpful.
Stay connected. Check in regularly throughout treatment and even once it’s over. Emotional side effects can linger long after treatment ends. Continue to call, visit and hang out, and keep doing all the things you’ve always loved to do together.
Laura Mosiello, LCSW-R, is Director of Women’s Cancers for CancerCare
Thanks Laura for sharing – and for caring about our girlfriends battling cancer. You gave some amazing girlfriend advice on how to be a better friend to our girlfriends dealing with cancer.
How do you help YOUR girlfriends who are affected by cancer? Share and inspire!
More girlfriend advice on how to be a better friend to a friend dealing with cancer:
- 10 ways to be a better friend to a girlfriend dealing with cancer
- Podcast interview with TAMI BOEHMER
- Pink gifts for girlfriends dealing with cancer
- Friendship and cancer
p.s. And … be a friend to Girlfriendology! Share this blog with your girlfriends by clicking the Facebook LIKE button below and also, when you’re on our Facebook page, SHARE IT WITH YOUR GIRLFRIENDS. (Please?!) Thanks girlfriend!