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Friend Wife

My best friends of 45 years has breast cancer and has had a mastectomy and has just finished treatment after Christmas, I would really appreciate any advice on;
1) How I can support my friend.  In truth I dont know what to say, if I can offer help. Any feedback appreciated.
2) I guess have a rather stereotypical male attitude, I am always hopeful he will say, the doctors have said she will be fine now, but its looks like that confirmation doesn't come quickly.  It seems rude to ask....


  • Hi @Jules1971 , thanks for getting in touch, and sorry to hear your friend has been going through cancer. It sounds like you're a thoughtful and supportive friend to her, which is truly valuable at times like this. 

    Hopefully some of our lovely forum members will get back to you soon with some helpful tips, but for now I can offer you this blog article: Talking To Someone With Cancer . It has some helpful advice on what to say (and what to avoid saying!) when someone you know has cancer. 

    All the very best, 


  • Jules1971Jules1971 Posts: 3
    Thank you Emilyrose, the article is helpful.  Also interested to hear from anyone who has other advice
  • RobertARobertA Posts: 1,106 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2019
    Hi @jules1971

    Good evening Jules

    I am living with advanced and aggressive prostate cancer and like many other sufferers, there are no outward signs of the disease though I get tired and sometimes feel isolated and lonely, even when amongst family. Cancer survivors are aware of our (possibly)  limited time on earth and the cancer experience can affect the way we see things. We often do not want to waste time on things we do not see as important and this can make us impatient and frustrated. Cancer is life changing and the physical and emotional effects remain with us always, and we are somehow different in a way that only other cancer sufferers/survivors really understand. LiveBetterWith has been very good for me as I can say anything I want and know I will not be judged or criticised. I also know that the way I feel is not just me.  Your friend and his wife might consider joining. 

    What do I need the most from friends and family members?

    I need to know that I can occasionally have a bad day without being told to snap out of it because I can't.

    When I feel tired or unwell, I'm not looking for a solution or an aspirin, I want a hug and understanding.

    When I get confused or frustrated, I don't want to be ridiculed for doing something daft, I need a hug and reassurance. I dented the car whilst not concentrating properly and my wife wanted the full story. I really needed to be told these things happen and not to worry about it. She gets that now. 

    I don't want to hear that you know someone who has lived with prostate cancer for many years and that it is commonplace and easily managed. I am one of the 10% where this is not the case.  I think that women with breast cancer often face the same well intended but uninformed opinions and find it irritating as I do. 

    If it makes any sense, I prefer to be asked 'How do you feel?' rather than 'How are you?'  You may think there is no difference, but for me, mental issues became a problem and I was appreciative of people who wanted to know how I actually felt. 

    I guess it is easy to use the disease as an excuse for different behaviour, but necessary hormone treatment has changed me both physically and mentally and I am not the same confident, decisive person I used to be and I can't get him back. From my many female friends who have/have had breast cancer, I know that they often have similar issues. It is tough on friends and family who are obviously affected - perhaps just as much as the cancer patient and it is very caring and thoughtful of you to realise this and to ask the question. 

    I had real issues with depression and anxiety and  I firmly believe that counselling, which has helped me enormously, should also be available to family and friends to enable us all to move forward together with love and understanding on both sides. The end of treatment should be a time for celebration, but cancer survivors often feel suddenly abandoned, alone and scared. Try not to tell her she is OK now and can put it all behind her. Cancer survivors live with the knowledge/fear that it might come back and it takes a lot of getting used to. The lady will probably be feeling quite vulnerable, and will appreciate kindness, understanding and patience. 

    I have probably rambled and gone off topic, but I do hope that something of what I have said has been useful.



  • SunshinedaffSunshinedaff Posts: 1,254 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Hi @Jules1971

    How lovely to have a friendship that has lasted so many years, that is wonderful. I am sorry about your friend's wife (?)diagnosis, but it is good she has been able to have surgery and treatment. 

    I am guessing given the length of the friendship that conversations usually come easily, over the years you've been able to discuss many things. The thing to do is, don't suddenly change how you interact with your friends, because cancer has invaded. I had breast cancer, with surgery and all the treatment, I remember feeling I didn't want the cancer to rob me of my friendships because of 'uncomfortable', 'eggshell' moments. Asking how she is recovering after the surgery and treatment is not 'taboo'. It shows you care. Take your lead from your friends with conversations too, I was quite open with close friends about what was going on. Make an offer to help with anything practical that may be needed. When I was feeling physically able, we were taken out for drinks, meals, just fun things too. 'Normal' activites were welcomed, if I was not feeling strong enough, we said so and re-arranged things. I may have had cancer but I didn't want it ruling my life. My friends organised a rota of providing meals on a daily basis for the family, another friend organised to get the housework done.  When I had hospital appointments and my husband was unable to go with me, friends stepped in to come with me. 

    After surgery happens there is a delay in finding out how things went while histology reports are being done. There is usually a post-surgery appointment. The same with post-treatment appointments, if chemo, there may be scans etc after to check the success of treatment, again these may take some time before they take place. 

    I hope this may be of some help to you, if you have any further questions, feel free to ask, welcome to the community.

    Lou x
  • Jules1971Jules1971 Posts: 3
    Robert and Sunshine (Lou) - thank you both so much.  Your words are really helpful and I appreciate the detailed advice and you sharing your perspective and experience which will really help me when I next talk to Mark - be that on a call or in person (hopefully at the Pub).   THANK YOU AGAIN  :) 
  • SunshinedaffSunshinedaff Posts: 1,254 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you, we are all here for each other. Not just a quaint saying. If any of us can help and support the other, that's what we do. 
    Keep in touch.

    Lou x
  • RobertARobertA Posts: 1,106 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Hi Jules

    It is a pleasure. I do hope that everything goes well for all of you, and as Lou says, we are here for each other and we hope that you will keep in touch. 

    Enjoy the pub. 

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