The words alone scream at the reader with instant images of horrified pain and suffering. But what does one know, when one does not know? In a new series of articles I am proud to team up with Author, Lecturer, AADE’s Educator of the Year, and a good friend, Susan Weiner.
She and I will discuss in a “She said-He said” forum/format some topics that we hope will open a dialogue. We are not speaking as experts and not always about diabetes; but rather, we are speaking from the point of view of two people who, like others, might want to know something about a topic they otherwise may not know. And also, to just give two people’s opinion on the matter. This being October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month it seemed like a natural way to start.
Many times people with diabetes state that others should be educated. Well we in the diabetes community should be educated also; and learning about other topics outside of the diabetes world is not such a bad thing after all……is it?
Again, we open the dialogue and urge you to participate.
SHE: When my best friend told me she had breast cancer, I didn’t know how to react. Mostly because she had recently lost one of her closest friends to the disease. The truth is, it wasn’t about me; it was entirely about her. Listening to her and realizing that this was truly complicated allowed me to help her in ANY way that I could.
HE: How often do we tell others to just ‘suck it up’? ‘Not to worry?’ It is important that we, as friends, realize the good days and the bad days come intertwined when it comes to dealing with cancer. Everything does not always have an answer and just listening can sometimes be much better than ‘any right words’ of comfort. Some days those words just don’t exist. Listen. Key big word to learn.
SHE: Don’t “over think” how to support and help your friend or family member with breast cancer. As my friend Tom has taught me “do something, don’t do nothing”… so, figure out what you can do to help, without overstepping.
HE: I have always thought that when someone was diagnosed with cancer resulting in many friends shaving their heads in support that it was such a wonderful act. I have found this to be true but not in all cases; the person it is being done for should be consulted first. I was surprised to find out that the gesture, as wonderful as it seems, can also serve as a reminder to the person everything they are going through each time they now see their bald friends. I never knew that aspect could come into play.
SHE: Coordinate meals “Be the meals on wheels coordinator”. Many people want to bring or send food. Some days there might be too many meals, others too few. Don’t let the person you want to help feel overwhelmed with deliveries. You can set up the meals too once they arrive. It’s great to have 3-4 meals a week because there are usually leftovers. This is very helpful especially after surgeries or during treatments.
HE: Don’t be afraid to join her on those trips to the Doctor’s Office or to be on a conference call regarding insurance. Let the questions be asked and you take the notes. It is hard enough to stay focused, to help to write everything down as well is just that much ‘more work to do’….do something to help and not just wear pink. Which, by the way, one woman told me that if she received anything pink; she would have screamed. She understood the support but it only served as a reminder. SO caution here.
SHE: Instead of sending flowers (or in addition to sending flowers) chip in with a few friends for a cleaning person to help out with house hold chores.
HE: Do not be so quick with one of those male phrases that are all-encompassing like “Don’t Worry” or “Cheer up”. She will worry and you telling her to cheer up will not make anything better. It is a fine line because you should not act like the voice of doom either. Take each day as it comes. Let her feel whatever it is she is feeling. There are times she wants to be alone……let her be. She needs to work through this in her own mind.
SHE: If there are young kids at home, send over a fun basket of things to do. It will keep the children occupied and happy and distracted. And speaking of kids driving children to and from activities can be a huge help. Although the kids may want their mom to drive them, staying on schedule will help the children’s lives be much less disrupted.
HE: Until she says otherwise, everything needs to be on your shoulders. Whatever was hers to do is now yours. The more you do and help her feel comfortable that everything she took care of you now have under full control; the more she can concentrate on what she needs to handling her cancer. Peace of mind is the best gift you can give her. So many times people ask “what can I do?” or “how should I react?” We hope these are just a few thoughts that you might find valuable. It’s important to realize that breast cancer can impact men as well as women. According to the American Cancer Society, it is much rarer being 100 times less common among men than among women, but it does happen. Breast cancer, according to the CDC is the most common cancer among women with no regard to any race or ethnicity.
It is a devastating disease and worthy of a discussion so PLEASE feel free to add whatever insight you may want to give to help educate others. Thank you.
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