*Breast Cancer* and our Friends

These photos depict a project made for Melly Testa. Melly chose to remain flat after a double mastectomy for breast cancer. She wrote Dreaming from the Journal Page while undergoing treatment.

Jake Finch’s, Publisher of Generation Q Magazine, shared most of her journey on Mama Makes Quilts. Her experience went from “hey this is going to be pretty simple” to “geeze Louise this is more than we ever expected” with every single turn.

There are more women in my life who’ve gone through some kind of breast cancer journey. In one amazing sense we get to see this resilience about them and in another sense we see them at their weakest and neediest. We get to see their strength while making some really tough decisions about their person, and their vulnerability as they share their story and experience the ravages of radiation and chemo on their body. We get to see our friends struggle to find the words because chemo brain is real.

We get to see our friends live.

We get to see our friends die.

From the outside this isn’t exactly easy and often leaves us wondering how we can help. For Melly I made a breast pocket at her request. For Jake I did my best to do my work, and send her texts now and then letting her know I was thinking of her. Living on opposite ends of the country made it challenging to do practical things like bring food, pick her up from chemo, or hold her hand.

I know one thing for sure asking what someone needs doesn’t quite work well. The needs are many between the dealing with being sick, talking to doctors, nurses, feeling nauseous all the time.

The other night while chatting with friends one shared that gift cards for take out are a great solution.

Get on a dinner train, coordinate the dinner train for the family. Make sure there’s enough food for all in the household. Check to see if there are any food allergies. Check in through it to see if any food aversions have developed.

Offer rides by saying, “I’m free on ___________, where do you need to go?”

Offer to babysit younger kids by saying, “Send the kids here whenever you need” or “I will pick the kids up for soccer practice, band, cheering, ___________ so you can get some rest”

Offer to clean by simply saying I’ll be over on Friday to give the bathrooms and kitchen a once over. Hire a cleaning service once a month to do a deep clean for the family.

Do laundry.

Go grocery shopping and get easy to eat/digest foods, toilet paper, paper towels, bleach wipes, paper plates. Things that we’d all want or use when we’re not feeling well.

Send ridiculous text messages. Don’t expect an answer back because often there is simply no bandwidth to do it.

Go for a walk with the person, take them for coffee, tea whatever, to the Mall. Be prepared to move at a slower pace and ready to leave when they are exhausted from a short walk.

Take the dogs for a walk. Get pet food.

From the outside it feels so much easier to ask what they need and let them respond. In reality it doesn’t work so much because the pressing needs of dealing with the physical health are so great that those things come up first.

We all have lives to live and it’s easy to move on with that during an extended illness. Set reminders to check in with the person and family once a week, once a month whatever makes the most sense. The experience of an illness can leave the one with breast cancer feeling and experiencing deep isolation. Isolation makes everything feel worse.


3 thoughts on “*Breast Cancer* and our Friends”

  1. What loving words you have written. I like the idea that you TELL them when you are available. People don’t want to ask and be a burden or be turned down. That way they don’t feel guilty.
    Good article.

  2. Right on. . . .we are a community. Sharing our talents/expertise/time or spreading the “wealth” is totally how it works. Sometimes, the recipient has no idea just how fulfilling assisting them on one of their “tasks” can be for the giver!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I just made a post about my first time in OR during a mastectomy and seeing cancer for the first time. So great to be a part of the conversation and bring awareness.

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