Over the last year, I’ve received dozens of emails from people asking me to reach out to their friend with breast cancer. Those requests are well meaning and often stem out of a desperate cry of wanting to help but not knowing what to do or what to say.
I am so sorry for your friend. Really, I am.
But I won’t call your friend with breast cancer…
Alas, the people who she needs most in her life are the people closest to her. Not a stranger. Not someone she has no history with. Not a foreign voice on the end of a phone who has a very different disease. Breast cancer isn’t the same for everyone. In fact, there are hundreds of different types of this disease with totally different treatment plans.
She needs YOU. Yes, YOU. You are God’s plan. You are the one to give the gift of presence.
I know it’s scary. I know it’s hard. I know it’s uncomfortable.
But YOU are the one who is meant to be there for the long haul. Everyone is going to disappear in a few weeks or months or once chemo is over…but the toll this will take on her will last long, long beyond that.
Remember the magic words: You’re in my thoughts, you’re in my prayers, and you are loved. Keep in touch. Set a reminder on your phone once a week. Text her and say, “In my thoughts and prayers today.” She doesn’t need you to fix anything or say any magical words. She just needs to know you are present and there. This will be particularly true in six months when she feels all alone, alone, alone.
Offer to do things beyond cook a meal (EVERYONE wants to do that). Instead, pick up the lawn mower. Hire a handyman for a few hours. Pick up gas gift cards (she’s going to drive a billion miles to the hospital). Don’t buy her anything pink. She’ll be sweet, but there will be a period of time (and it may last forever) that she’ll hate everything pink. Some women find their identities in cancer. Most of us don’t. We end up de-pinking everything in our lives.
Avoid giving to middle-men breast cancer organizations on her behalf. “Despite the fact that Komen trademarked the phrase ’for the cure,’ only 16 percent of the $472 million raised in 2011, the most recent year for which financial reports are available, went toward research,” according to The New York Times.
And .16 cents on every dollar going toward to research ain’t gonna buy anyone a cure. We need the whole dollar going to research.
If she wants you to give, give directly to the researchers so the whole amount goes to beating this disease. Rather than do a walk on her behalf, get together with friends and put together cash. Ask her to hand over one of her medical bills up to a certain amount and pay it. She will probably pay maximum out of pocket for years to come and max out in certain areas of insurance coverage (don’t tell her yet—she has is a lot to take in).
If she has any type of treatment plan that extends beyond 12 weeks, know that this is going to take a heavy financial toll on her and her family. Some treatment plans, like mine, last more than a year. She or her spouse may be struggling to hold onto her job to support her family or keep her health insurance. If at all possible, do what you can to make sure her family has work, a job, and insurance.
It’s all big and scary. But remember, as followers of Jesus, we’re the people who run in when everyone else is running out.
You got this. You can do this. She needs you. Be there. Don’t leave. No matter what.
If you want some more practical, helpful ideas on how to respond, pre-order the Fight Back With Joy book and Bible study. You’ll not only learn what your friend cannot say aloud, but you’ll also discover how to respond in hands-on practical ways and walk her through this journey.