Thursday, March 01, 2012

My daughter had breast cancer 5 years ago.  It was horrible, awful, scary, and all together overwhelming.  I had no idea what to do, how to help, or what to say.  Everything I did, or didn't do, was the wrong decision.  I will never forgive myself for being unable to figure out what she needed from me and to be able to give it to her.  I still am not certain what the right decisions would have been.

Now a friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer and I am trying again to figure out what I am supposed to do, or not do.  I'm a bit better this time because 1) she isn't my daughter and consequently I am less terrified, and 2) she's my age, and 3) we live in the same geographic area.  So the only thing I can think of to do is keep her busy and doing things  during the interminable waits between diagnosis, surgery, doctor's appointments, treatments.  So we go to movies, we stop for a glass of wine, we wander through lovely shops.  I still haven't figured out the whole talking thing, however.  What and how many questions cross the line from being interested and giving her an opportunity to talk to being nosey and prying?    I want to give her a safe place to talk but I'm not certain that I know how to do that.  So, tomorrow we are off to lunch and a great sale a trendy boutique and I'll try to read her cues and do my best, and I'll still probably feel that I have no idea what is the right thing to do.


ellen kirkendall said...

I'm sure your being there to keep her company and distract her is a comfort to her. You could ask her straight out what she needs from you; she may be frank enough to tell you.

Hattie said...

The same thing happened to me. My daughter was only 25 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was so paralyzed with fear that I could hardly help her. I fell back on my most simple strategy: providing food.
This state of affairs lasted for two years. She is now fine and the mother of a boy, with a baby girl on the way next month.
None of the bromides about how you can deal with these situations are of the slightest use. It's out of your control. This is not the movies.