How to support a friend who has breast cancer

Sep 27, 2010 at 2:42 p.m. ET

If your friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer, a good support system will help her weather her treatment better, both physically and emotionally. Here are some ways you can help.

Breast cancer friendship

1Lend an ear

After her diagnosis, your friend may be stunned, overwhelmed, angry, sad, scared—or all of the above. Be a sounding board, ready to listen when she needs to talk. Stay positive without discounting her fears.

2Lend a hand

As she undergoes treatment, your friend may feel tired or sick, as well as overwhelmed by her daily responsibilities. Some suggestions of practical support include:

  • Offer to be a contact for friends and family—set up a phone tree or email list so she doesn't have to continually repeat the news.
  • Enlist her other friends by coordinating support efforts (try or, for example). This way she'll receive ongoing help, instead of a flood of offers all at once.
  • Take over carpool duties, or take her kids to after school activities.
  • Buy groceries, pick up prescriptions, or make a library run. A simple, "I'm going to the grocery store today. What can I pick up for you?" may be all she needs to hear.
  • Clean her house, or chip in with friends to pay for a cleaning service.
  • Organize meals. If feasible, place an ice chest on her front porch so friends can drop off meals without disturbing her. Remember that dinner is not the only meal of the day—offer to help her with breakfast or packing lunches for the kids or her husband.

3Be her friend

When all is said and done, she is your friend, not a patient or a "case." Help her remember that by having fun with her in "normal" ways. As her time and energy permit, go for a walk, watch a movie, discuss a book, go window shopping. If you did it together before she was diagnosed, do it now if she feels up to it.

4Pamper her

Hire a sitter if necessary, and take her out for dinner and a movie, or to a spa day complete with manicure, pedicure, and a facial. Buy her a gift certificate for a massage.

Most importantly, keep asking what you can do and offering suggestions of help all the way until she completes her treatments. Your practical help and emotional support will help her cope now, as well as help her move into a healthy future.

Helping friends beat breast cancer

As Amy got through her cancer treatment and continued her recovery, she was shocked to find out that her best friend now was stricken with the same disease.

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