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Old 12-11-2013, 06:50 AM
 
2,677 posts, read 3,863,743 times
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I have a friend, she is a former co-worker as well, that was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer last Spring. They did the surgery and took out some lymph nodes as well. She is not a super close friend. When I used to live in CT, we did things together, but now that I'm in Florida I haven't seen her in almost 3 years. But we always talked on FB/text. I've tried to see how she's doing, what the prognosis is etc. She doesn't ever answer me directly, just says things like "not good" and "I don't have much time." Today she messaged me that she is thinking of selling the condo in CT, moving to CA with her dad and dying peacefully.

I'm not good at consoling people, I'm a problem solver. I don't know how to respond to this. She's not close enough for me to fly up there and spend time or anything. I'm also pregnant and just can't afford the expense right now. Three years ago she had a boyfriend who was an alcoholic, something scary I've never seen before. Last time I saw him, I knew it was the last time and lo and behold he died about 3 weeks later, fell down the stairs and hit his head. She mourned for a while, but then got into community things, volunteering, helping her mom with election activities last year etc. Seemed like she was on her way to doing well and then this. She has no kids, only her dog who is getting up there in years too. I feel really bad, but I feel that she's also given up. I don't know if she's just given up, or if the prognosis really is THAT bad that it makes no sense to have hope. She hasn't told me what her doctors said and I won't pry.

Is there anything to do in this situation? I've just kind of checked in with her here and there, but like I said, always get the same type of responses.
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Old 12-11-2013, 07:01 AM
 
25,953 posts, read 26,761,579 times
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You sound as though you are in a weird state in your relationship with this woman. Sort of a friend, but not really. Only speak from your own heart and perspective and do not just repeat things people tell you to say. Be true to yourself.

If you are not good at consoling someone then don't try to fake it. Sometimes people in these situations are just looking for a warm body to say things to and not looking for answers. When my brother and his wife lost their son, I called my SIL every single day to once a week, for a year and she cried so hard when she talked you couldn't understand her. My purpose in this case was not to give her answers or tell her what to do, but to just be a warm body on the other end of the phone for as long as she needed. That position and the length of it was my own choice and I knew going in it would be rough and at least a year. As time went on and she became more coherent did I find her support groups on line for people who lost their children.

If she says she's thinking of moving with her dad and dying peacefully, it doesn't necessarily mean she is asking you your opinion on it - she's just thinking out loud and if you feel you need to respond you can ask questions instead of making statements such as, "How does your dad feel about it?" "Would that make you more comfortable?" "Do you have enough to move?" Things such as this. But, again, this is a suggestion and I wouldn't force something that does not fit your personality.
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Old 12-11-2013, 07:09 AM
 
10,322 posts, read 9,374,600 times
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Other than saying that you're so very sorry she's going through this; you could say that you want her to know that you're there for her any time she feels the need to talk and share her feelings.

She knows you can't cure the cancer or fix any of her issues; she's just sharing what's going on in her life....and being a patient listener is priceless. It's amazing how many (even those who claim to be close friends, or some family members) are not good listeners.
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Old 12-11-2013, 08:16 AM
 
Location: Georgia
4,562 posts, read 4,092,983 times
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Check in with her by text or email to let her know that you are thinking of her. Send flowers occasionally, if you can afford it, even a small arrangement -- better to enjoy them while she is alive, IMHO. Send a "thinking of you" card of support. Send a card for dinner at a local restaurant, even if it's just a chain. Make a donation to a breast cancer research organization in her name. Pray for her, or send whatever good, positive thoughts your own faith supports. And really, just listen -- you can't fix it, but what you CAN fix is giving her an outlet to talk, or even just to talk to take her mind off of her situation, even for just a few minutes. Don't try to marginalize what she is going through -- she's bouncing back and forth between acceptance, grief, anxiety, regret, anger -- the whole gamut of emotions. Ask questions, listen to the answer non-judgmentally. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of death, and go to great lengths to assure the patient that "Oh, it won't happen to you -- you can fight this!" In some patients, it just adds another layer of "what did I do wrong?" to the whole brew.

Just . . . care.
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Old 12-11-2013, 08:37 AM
 
Location: Noblesville, IN
3,713 posts, read 4,091,011 times
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Wow, that's really so true, dblackga! I had breast cancer 12 years ago. I clearly lived through it but at the time, I was in it day by day. What I found was that people got nervous around me and didn't know how to act, so they stayed away. I know it was hard to look at me...I was sickly and bald...but my spirits were mostly good so I wanted to visit with people when I felt well. I noticed that people were "ok" from a distance though...I scared them. That made me sad.

SO...being a good listener is very important. Sounds like she doesn't want to talk details...probably because it's horrifying to the person not going through it...well actually, it's horrifying for the person going through it, too, but not being able to talk about it is hard, so yes, listen if she wants to indulge.

I agree with the cards...sometimes I couldn't believe the cards I would receive...just couldn't believe someone I hadn't talked to in years would be thinking of me. It truly warmed my heart! Truly! Maybe send her a care package...a new bandana or head scarf. My favorite was one my folks sent me that had the breast cancer walk they did in my name on it. Or the one with skull and crossbones on it! Send her an Erma Bombeck book...she will laugh her butt off and that is GOOD MEDICINE. Send her a funny movie...something silly like What About Bob? Maybe send her a picture of you and your girlfriend with your prego tum tum...you know, stuff that will make her smile. Good luck...you'll be fine.
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Old 12-11-2013, 08:59 AM
 
Location: SoCal again
16,049 posts, read 12,827,498 times
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I have no experience but I like the above suggestions with little packages and cards or flowers. Just little stuff that makes her smile and uplifts her spirit.

Congrats on your pregnancy.
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Old 12-11-2013, 04:07 PM
 
Location: Camberville
12,023 posts, read 16,761,808 times
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Please, for the love of all things holy, do not ask people going through cancer (or other life altering and life threatening illnesses) what their prognosis is. It MIGHT be appropriate if you are particularly close, but certainly not in this situation. I'm a "fixer" too, and it took getting cancer myself to learn how to back off. Unless you are her oncologist, you can't fix this. You can't make judgements on whether or not she has "given up." Going through cancer alone is one of the hardest things anyone could ever do. Trust me, I've been there. If she can give up the expense and upkeep of a condo to live with her father where she will be taken care of, that's her decision.

Going through serious illness is something you can't prepare yourself for, and is different for every person. It is particularly difficult for younger people (I'm assuming this friend is close in age to you). When I was diagnosed at stage IV, many people pried about my prognosis, condition, etc. As a rule, talking about mortality should be driven by the person who is ill. I know I definitely did not want to talk about the possibility of dying before my 25th birthday, and the mere words "prognosis" would send my anxiety through the roof.

Not to toot my own blog, but I wrote What Not to Say to THIS Cancer Patient when I was in the early stages of treatment. It's much more aggressive than I ever am, but I found the situation so frustrating that I had to get everything off my chest.

Don't offer yourself up as a shoulder to cry on if that's not in your personality. That's fine! I had friends who told me that they had a hard time talking to me without wanting to offer advice. I was so happy they were honest with me - we could talk about other things! When you're in it day to day, your whole life becomes about cancer. I really relished the friends who I could call or Skype to talk about trashy TV, celebrity gossip, and really light things I never would have cared about pre-cancer but needed to keep my mind in happy places.

It sounds like she just needs support. Stage III breast cancer is serious. If she's your age, it is likely even more serious since breast cancer found in women in their 20s and 30s tends to be VERY aggressive. Contrary to popular belief, attitude doesn't mean much. It was horribly stressful to be constantly told to "be positive!" Some moments - hell, some whole days - it's impossible to be positive. Unless she outright stops going to her oncologist when there are still treatments available, she hasn't given up. And even in those situations, it's a very personal decision.

For things that you can do, be genuine and honest with her. Do you have a sense of how she is doing financially? For me, even WITH good insurance, my out of pocket costs were almost my entirely yearly take home pay so the best gifts I received were incredibly practical things. If you can swing buying her groceries on Peapod or sending a practical gift, all the better. Don't send flowers - her immune system is likely all kinds of wonky and I know personally, all the flowers I received had to go straight in the trash because my allergies were significantly worse. The best gifts I got were a snuggy, warm socks, and items I would not necessarily have been able to afford myself. Netflix was a lifesaver for me because I did not have the energy to focus on books - I always appreciated suggestions from friends of what to watch next!
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Old 12-11-2013, 04:30 PM
 
Location: SoCal
6,064 posts, read 9,526,027 times
Reputation: 5790
We have friends - she just got through with treatment for cancer, and now he's going through it. DH found them bumper stickers that said "F*#@ CANCER!" They loved 'em.
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Old 12-11-2013, 07:27 PM
 
Location: Dallas TX
15,024 posts, read 21,732,170 times
Reputation: 22201
I think everyone is different with their reactions. I think the fact you are reaching out to her is a lot. Many people are scared they will say the wrong thing and don't do a thing. Be yourself and talk from the heart.
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Old 12-11-2013, 07:50 PM
 
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
4,743 posts, read 4,368,044 times
Reputation: 10398
Quote:
Originally Posted by katestar View Post
I have a friend, she is a former co-worker as well, that was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer last Spring. They did the surgery and took out some lymph nodes as well. She is not a super close friend. When I used to live in CT, we did things together, but now that I'm in Florida I haven't seen her in almost 3 years. But we always talked on FB/text. I've tried to see how she's doing, what the prognosis is etc. She doesn't ever answer me directly, just says things like "not good" and "I don't have much time." Today she messaged me that she is thinking of selling the condo in CT, moving to CA with her dad and dying peacefully.

I'm not good at consoling people, I'm a problem solver. I don't know how to respond to this. She's not close enough for me to fly up there and spend time or anything. I'm also pregnant and just can't afford the expense right now. Three years ago she had a boyfriend who was an alcoholic, something scary I've never seen before. Last time I saw him, I knew it was the last time and lo and behold he died about 3 weeks later, fell down the stairs and hit his head. She mourned for a while, but then got into community things, volunteering, helping her mom with election activities last year etc. Seemed like she was on her way to doing well and then this. She has no kids, only her dog who is getting up there in years too. I feel really bad, but I feel that she's also given up. I don't know if she's just given up, or if the prognosis really is THAT bad that it makes no sense to have hope. She hasn't told me what her doctors said and I won't pry.

Is there anything to do in this situation? I've just kind of checked in with her here and there, but like I said, always get the same type of responses.
Saying "I'm not doing good and I don't have much time, so I'm thinking of moving in with my Dad where I can die peacefully," sounds like a pretty direct answer to me.

Don't worry about "problem solving" in this case. Your best response is to simply speak honestly. "I'm so sorry that this has happened to you, and you and your Dad will be in my thoughts/prayers."

I'm not sure why you bring up the alcoholic BF who also died - especially since you describe her as getting back on her feet after his passing. She doesn't come across as a "quitter" to me. She seems like a person who has had to accept her own mortality at a relatively young (?) age, and she is doing the best she can. If you're not close enough to ask her directly what her doctors say, then you're not close enough to decide whether she's a quitter or not. It's highly likely that she is going through her own process of grief, mourning, and ultimately acceptance. Just honor where she is on that emotional spectrum. That's all you need to do.
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