Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to be a Friend to Someone Who Has Breast Cancer

By: Shari A. Miller

My life was changed 13 years ago when I found out that I had breast cancer. Our children were very young, our daughter was 8, and our son was 5, and my husband and I had been married only 10 years.

Talk about a wake up call.

Everything changed, and I mean everything. Our sense of what normal was, had vanished, and it was replaced with a new normal, one that took some adjusting and getting used to. I had soldiered through the treatments and nearly 7 years later I was about to receive the coveted title of "cancer free."

However, that never happened....

Instead of getting the all clear, and getting my get out of jail free card, I received a trip to jail instead. This type of jail isn't the normal one that you would think of with bars, money on the books, and living in fear of the prisoner down the hall. This type of jail was one that was within my own body and the name of the prison warden was stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. 

What is stage 4 cancer you may ask? It is cancer that has spread from it's original location. In my case the breast cancer has spread to my bones, it has been on various bones over the past 6 years. Cancer is currently on my sternum, a few spots on my spine, both hips and my left femur. When you receive a stage 4 cancer diagnosis it is one that many individuals will die from. A stage 4 cancer patient will always be in treatment for the rest of their life. There is no full proof medical treatment to completely eradicate the cancer.

However as we all know, there is one thing that is bigger than man and that is the healing power of Jesus who died on the cross for our sins and it's by His stripes that we are healed.

Stage 4 breast cancer and the treatments that come along with it can be very debilitating to both females and males alike. The cancer itself can cause a great amount of pain. The treatments a breast cancer patient has to endure also carries with it many side effects such as, hair loss, neuropathy, memory loss, the inability to walk without some form of assistance, and extreme pain from the treatment itself.

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve on another, as good stewards of God's varied grace."
1 Peter 4:10
I have learned over the years from things myself and my friends have faced, that people who are walking this road need a friend. They need to know that there are people who truly care about what's going on in their life.

It may be difficult to know what to do for someone who is on the outside looking into a breast cancer survivors world. They may not know where to start to help someone in these circumstances. Here are a few suggestions that I have learned over the years, on how to be a friend to someone who has breast cancer.

1. The most important thing you can do for someone with breast cancer is to pray for him or her. But be specific, call her on the phone, shoot her a message and ask how you can pray for her.

2. Give this person with breast cancer a call and ask if you can come over. Sit with her, listen to her, care for her, ask her how you can help her. At times breast cancer can be a very lonely place. It is so helpful to be surrounded with friends during times like these.

3. Gather some friends, or women from church and occasionally go over and clean for her. This will be such a blessing to the friend who is suffering from breast cancer. Cancer can be very debilitating, and at times the only energy a cancer patient may have is to get up and get dressed.

4. Take some meals over to her and her family. Remember a cancer patients taste buds will be very different if she is on chemotherapy, ask what type of food she currently likes, or if anyone has any food allergies.

5. Help her with laundry. It can be so frustrating, when a breast cancer patient has all the intentions in the world of getting up and tackling her chores for the day, but sometimes the cancer wins and she is just not able to do them

6. Send her a card in the mail. Receiving a card from a friend, and being reminded that she is not facing this by herself, does wonders to boost the self esteem of a breast cancer patient.

7. If possible treat her to a pedicure or a manicure. There are so many hidden scars that a breast cancer patient holds, scars that some may never see. Getting the chance to feel pretty again is a great moral booster to her spirit.

8. Send her your favorite Bible verses throughout the day. Whether it's through text, an email, or a letter, the Word of God is a powerful tool to uplift someone who's body is being ravaged by cancer.

9. Never tell your friend that you know of someone who has died of breast cancer. Trust me, she already knows that breast cancer is a deadly disease, this helps no one. All this does is make your friend feel worse.

10. NEVER, EVER try to minimize the fact that your friend has cancer by telling them, "Well, we're all gonna die someday. You never know, we could both go out in to the street and get hit by a bus tomorrow." All this does is make the cancer patient feel like their cancer is trivial. I can guarantee you that in their head their thinking, "You do not understand me at all. I know I could go out and get hit by a bus at anytime, the difference between me and you is, I'm already carrying my bus ticket that will take me to my final destination."

11. See if your friend is up to attending a Bible study. It's so important for a cancer patient to be digging into God's Word and to feel like they are surrounded by friends.

12. Offer to drive her to a doctor's appointment.

13. Let her know that no matter what, you are just a phone call away. Assure her that you're there for her and you'll do whatever you can to help her out.

But most of all, just love on her. Let her know she's not alone, let her know she matters and that she matters to God too. Be the hands and feet of Jesus to her. Don't ignore her, or feel like she doesn't want to be bothered, many times that's the furthest thing from the truth. Serve like Jesus would and watch His light shine through to others, in return you'll be the one who is getting richly blessed as you do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 

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  1. Love this, Shari. I have had a number of friends and family members with cancer and this list is so helpful. Thank you!

    1. PS - I'm so sorry to hear of your cancer's recurrence. Praying for you!

  2. Somehow I have missed the fact that cancer is part of your story, Shari. The timing of this post could not be better. I have learned in the past week that a dear friend of our family has breast cancer and we are now in the beginning stages of learning what this will mean for her regarding treatment, etc. Thanks for these practical words from your heart.

  3. I am so sorry to hear of this diagnosis and all it means you are going through. This is good advice for people with a variety of illnesses.

  4. These are wonderful ideas! I so wish I lived closer to you to do some of these with you. But I am always praying for you friend. <3

  5. Thanks for sharing these tips. Some of these things I never would have thought of.

  6. Bless you Shari, and I'm following tip #1 and am lifting you up right now into the care of the King of kings. May you feel his compassionate and loving heart as you walk through this journey with Him.


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