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Just found out a mom at school

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wannabenormal posted 5/5/2013 18:49 PM

has breast cancer.

She is the mother of my DD13's 'former' BFF. The girls aren't as close due to a falling out or anything, just due to different interests (though girls are bunking together at a summer camp this summer).

Anyway, I was at a function last week for school and ran into the mom.

She told me there she was dealing with this. I reacted terribly because 1, I was volunteering at the school thing and 2, it was shocking news. I didn't know HOW to react.

So what can I do to help? I told her, of course call me for anything - but she's really not the type to do that. She's funny - great, great person, but does things on her own, kwim? She would probably not reach out for help.

She's taking it well which leads me to believe it's a good prognosis, but she will have times she needs to get radiation and such.

I just want to be there but am not sure how? I'd be happy to help with the kids (she has 2) and whatever. Just not sure how to put that out there and say - I'm totally HERE, even if your bathrooms need cleaning, you know?

Any ideas? I've not had someone close to me in this situation that I can be available to, so I'm not sure how to approach.


TrustNoOne posted 5/5/2013 19:26 PM

Could you offer to take her out for a coffee, without kids?

Let her know exactly what you told us here - that you were shocked by the news and caught off guard.

Tell her that you've had some time to gather your thoughts and you'd like to help, to be there for her - and ask her to give you the gift of accepting your offers of assistance.

You could:
watch her kids - or take them to the park (i.e., give her time to rest)

prepare meals - casseroles, frozen meals, crockpot recipes help enormously.

run errands - bank, drycleaner, grocery store, fill car with gas, pick up prescriptions, mail, etc.

cleaning - when you're not feeling well, sometimes a freshly scrubbed kitchen and bathroom are welcome treats and lift your spirits. Cleanliness will also be important as she's undergoing treatments as the drugs will destroy her immune system in the process.

spend time with her...offer to talk, even when you don't know what to say. Hold her hand - no one can be strong and brave all the time. Just knowing someone is in your corner can give you the strength to take the next step, or five.

During/after treatment (which are usually cumulative in effect) she'll begin to feel tired, weak and run down. Re-assure her this is normal. Give her permission to feel crappy and rest. Spend time talking with her children about how they can help her - physically and emotionally, and that their love and support are key to her treatment and healing.

You are being a good friend. And when the chips are down, family, friends, faith, love, and community are really what carry us through.

((((Hugs)))) to you and your friend.

dameia posted 5/5/2013 19:26 PM

Make dinners for her, especially ones that can be frozen. Call her and ask her if you can take her kids out for a few hours. Phrase it in a way that makes it sound like you WANT to, rather than you're doing her a favor or asking if she needs help, kwim.

Also, just calling her and chatting, when she feels up to it, will be a big help. Invite her out for a mani/pedi or something else along those lines.

Chemo and radiation can be very exhausting so I'm sure she would appreciate any gesture, no matter how small.

I think I can posted 5/5/2013 20:03 PM

I've heard a good thing to say is "what can I do for you this week?"

It translates into actual helpful actions more than "let me know if I can do anything."

Also, if she told you at school, she may be in shock and just talking about it may help. I'm a sharer--I do that, while other people may clam up while they process.

authenticnow posted 5/5/2013 21:07 PM

My SIL is finishing up her last round of chemo tomorrow (YAY!). I know what she really appreciated was meals for her family at the beginning-middle of chemo when she was too exhausted and sick to cook for them (also right after her surgery, she had a double mastectomy). Also, rides to and from chemo each week, because they said she might be too sick to drive afterwards and this way her H didn't always have to take off of work to take her.

wannabenormal posted 5/5/2013 21:30 PM

Thanks guys.

This gal is so wonderful..she works a crazy exec job and still manages the 2 kid activity thing, plus church, marriage, etc.

I will do the - what can I do for you this week thing.

She deserves it. Not that anyone ever deserves to be sick, but she is someone that really deserves NOT to be, if that makes sense.

cinnamongurl posted 5/5/2013 21:50 PM

My mom is a 12 year survivor of breast cancer. When she was in treatment and too weak or too sick from the chemo, one of the things she was most thankful for was a cleaning lady. She was a teacher, and missed a whole year of school due to surgery and treatment and recovery. The other teachers pitched in and hired on a woman to come every 2 weeks when she was the weakest. And do a heavy, thorough cleaning. She couldn't have a whole lot of company due to her compromised immune system, but people brought food daily. She needed some assistance getting around, and enjoyed company during the infusions at the hospital. She said it was a welcome distraction.

She will definitely need help with the kids, maybe offer to take them overnight now and again. A friend bought my mom a post mastectomy massage, she really loved that. And when she was really weak, she loved a simple foot massage and pedicure.

Id say just being a good listener and reassuring of her feelings (good and bad) is key. This is such a scary thing to go through! I recently read something from the American Cancer Society called the 50 minute hour. The concept is simple but so necessary. The goal is to fill those 50 minutes with joy and love whatever makes you happy, but, and this is the most important part, allow yourself that last 10 minutes to grieve and cry and embrace the pain. Just a little at a time, but imperative nonetheless. Encourage her to allow herself to feel both.

Its a long hard journey, but with love and support of friends and family, the ride is just a little less bumpy. So sorry for your friend, what a frightening position to be in. My thoughts go out to her.

You're a good friend to be actively seeking ways to help. That will mean a ton to her. All the planning on the world won't prepare her for the gravity this disease has! Its such a godsend to have people around to help. And lastly don't wait for her to ask you, just go ahead and start doing things for her. She'll appreciate not having to make quote so many decisions on her own!

Eta: removed a sentence that accidentally pasted from an earlier post

[This message edited by cinnamongurl at 9:54 PM, May 5th (Sunday)]

wannabenormal posted 5/5/2013 22:10 PM

Thank you guys again.

She's such a Type A, do things herself kinda gal that she would never 'reach out' if you know what I mean.

Since she's so 'lay it out', I think I will. I have Thursdays free since my kids are at their dad's, that's now 'their night' - what do you need, dinner? Wash to do? Clean the toilets? I'm your girl.

She's one of the nicest ladies I know, and a lady she is. I hope she comes out on the better side of this!

whensenough posted 5/6/2013 01:26 AM

wow your kindness warms my heart. how beautiful your gesture is.

i would go with the making dinner thing and also helping with the kids and housework if possible.

You may have to be very aggressive with the help and do it even when she says she doesnt need it...I have a child with a disability and I hardly ever take help unless its forced upon me...even though i know i need it lol.

[This message edited by whensenough at 2:12 AM, May 6th (Monday)]

wannabenormal posted 5/6/2013 01:40 AM

When - you sound like me. I never ask for anything, even when it's offered I don't feel right.

But you need to get to a point when you realize you cannot do it all. Recognize that your friends love you and WANT to do whatever!

Yes you feel all 'whatever' about it; but get over it. It's done more for your child and out of love for you both, so there! Get over it and take the help!

Heavy Sigh posted 5/6/2013 02:11 AM

AuthenticNow had an excellent list.

It doesn't matter that she is a "do it all" person, because even a "do it all" person with the stomach flu or hit by a truck(what some chemo or radiation feels like later) will not be able to cook for her family, can't pick up her kids from school or soccer practice or need them whining at her second day after chemo or radiation.

1. Food: Do it in advance at your house and take it over - not cook it at her house on Thursdays. She won't wish to smell the food odors if queasy, or won't feel like telling you where in the kitchen to find the knives or spices or the collander or whatever every 10 minutes.

Shape hamburgers, freeze them - take over with bag of burger buns. Next, bake a pan of lasagne for her family, freeze it and take it over for her freezer to stock her pantry for later. Homemade soup keeps well. Rotisserie chicken from the grocers with a homemade pasta salad. Take over stuffed baked potatoes. (Some cancer patients in treatment can't have raw veggies - but mainly, do this for her family to get it off her mind.)

2. Call other mothers to prepare a meal in advance to feed her family. If they aren't cooks, then a gift card to a local restaurant. A place for dad to take kids. Depending on stage of cancer, she could be going through this as long as an entire YEAR.

3. Offer help with kid transporting after school or to kid activities during the days just after treatment. Or if another mom lives closer to her, ask that mom if possible to help. It spares the sick mom from having to ask others and feel she's putting them on the spot.

4. As for housework - I'd say no, unless it's helping to pay for a cleaning crew, where she wouldn't feel judged by someone she knows if you're looking in a messy closet to find the toilet-bowl cleaner. Yard work - maybe. Pulling weeds, putting a pot of geraniums on the porch would be nice.

5. If she must drive out of town to receive treatment, at a special cancer center, some friends might offer gift cards that can also be used for gas.

[This message edited by Heavy Sigh at 2:13 AM, May 6th (Monday)]

tryingagain74 posted 5/6/2013 12:03 PM

I haven't read the other replies, but when a good friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, a bunch of us took turns making her meals and delivering them, and some of us even took her to her chemo appointments. You certainly don't need to drive her to appointments, but offering up meals to take the stress of making dinner off of her would be great. My friend really appreciated not having to deal with that. You could also chip in with others to hire someone to professionally clean her house (if going over there to clean yourself might be too personal), and you could also think about getting gift cards for her for nice things-- a spa day, movie tickets, etc.

One thing my friend did not want was any pink ribbon paraphernalia. While it's a nice thought, it's also a constant reminder to a breast cancer patient that she has the disease. I wouldn't make a pink ribbon-themed gift basket for her, for example.

You might also just give her your number and let her know that you're willing to babysit, run errands, or pick something up at the grocery store (like Pepsi-- it was the one drink my friend could tolerate while on chemo because it masked the metallic taste in her mouth that was a side effect).

StrongerOne posted 5/7/2013 00:53 AM

When we were taking my DS in for chemo a lot, one friend volunteered to be the food organizer. She got the schedule from us, checked on food restrictions, recruited other friends to cook and bring over food, put everyone on a schedule, and sent out reminders. A colleague w breast cancer has had friends do something similar with pet care, driving, running errands, etc. if you are an organizer or planner this is so helpful!

StrongerOne posted 5/7/2013 00:53 AM

Double post, sorry.

[This message edited by StrongerOne at 12:53 AM, May 7th (Tuesday)]

Unagie posted 5/7/2013 14:16 PM

Food will help and so will babysitting the kids. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and she'd get home from chemo and be too weak to bathe herself let alone cook or take care of little kids. My dad, my brother and I cooked and me and my brother cleaned.

Also she may just want someone to sit with her. My mom would feel so scared and desperately lonely and I would sit by her bed for hours trying to get her to smile.

You're such a sweetie for wanting to help.

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