Celebrating Three Years (and Ways to Help a Friend with Breast Cancer)
November 21, 2015
Today is my anniversary: three years in remission from breast cancer.
If you follow me here or on social media, you've seen that I've had an amazing year full of travel and adventure. I am so fortunate to have had these experiences, and as I've said in years past, the Thanksgiving holiday has special meaning for me now.
Sadly, the breast cancer war is still waged all around us; you likely know someone who has been impacted by it. Over the years, countless people have asked for my advice on how to help a friend or loved one who is facing breast cancer treatment, and I repeatedly forward an email with the below information that I crafted soon after my own fight. I decided to publish it here, as a point of reference for the next person who might find it valuable. Everyone's situation is different, but these are some of the things that made my own journey more tolerable. Perhaps they'll benefit someone in your life, too.
Flowers and Cards.
Cliché? Maybe. But a colorful bouquet and hand-written note can really lift one's spirits. Especially during the long months of treatment, after the initial shock of diagnosis has passed and you are just trying to get through, day by day. One dear friend even sent a small lemon tree to my home. Beautiful, living things can impart a healing energy when you need it most.
There are a lot of pretty, cause-related jewelry options that provide hope as well as a daily reminder that someone was (is) thinking of you. Two lines that I like: Dogeared Make A Wish bracelets on Irish linen, and Bravelets Breast Cancer Awareness jewelry ($10 from each purchase is donated to the cause).
Whether to pass the time during long hospital waits, inspire or educate on breast health, or simply distract from heavier thoughts and worries, reading materials of all kinds can be a welcome diversion. I received and stocked up on my share of guilty pleasure magazines (hellooo, US Weekly), light-hearted books, and one serious medical tome in the form of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book - not for the faint of heart but widely considered the Bible for the newly diagnosed (and utterly fascinating reading). Some of my friends put movies (DVDs) in my care packages and they were great - I'm a huge reader, but there were days when my eyes hurt or I just couldn't focus on text and zoning out in front of the TV was perfect.
You can't go wrong by offering to cook a meal or pick up groceries. Everyone needs to eat! And having someone else pick up/prepare it for you is a welcome treat. Just remember: if your friend is undergoing chemotherapy, s/he may very well suffer food intolerance and nausea. I ate mostly bland things during this time: oatmeal, yogurt, applesauce, chicken soup, smoothies. With the occasional burger or steak thrown in when my red blood count was low.
Chemotherapy often leads to hair loss, and pretty head coverings come in handy not only for aesthetic reasons but for practical ones, too - bald heads get cold! Pretty knit or felt caps and cotton scarves are the perfect accessory. Avoid any rough/itchy material which can aggravate delicate skin, and silk which can easily slide off. I found some good scarf options at Headcovers.com but you can also find knit caps and square scarves at regular retail stores.
Thank you, Jackie! I appreciate the kind words, and hope that your friend is doing ok. Stay positive! That is the most important thing when going through a challenge like this. Be well.
Posted by: Stephanie | November 30, 2015 at 01:42 PM
Steph, thanks so much for writing this! I'm so glad you're doing so well. I just referred a recently diagnosed friend of mine to your blog to read about your journey, you write with such honesty and humor.
Posted by: Jackie (Mintz) Cohen | November 24, 2015 at 02:02 PM