Any advice?

I’m new to this site. Just had a call from one of my best friends letting me know she has breast cancer and is having an operation soon. I want to help her in any way I can and though I’m not really worried about saying the wrong thing (she’s very frank and open) I would very much like to say / do the right things.
Unfortunately she lives a long way away, so I can’t be there in person for her very much; I’ve told her she can call me whenever to talk, but she knows that anyway.
What else can I do?

Hi Anna - my sister was diagnosed three years ago. I still don’t know what to say really but I do now know what NOT to say. This sounds like I’m trying to be funny - I’m not, under no circumstances tell her that she could get hit by a bus tomorrow - one of my friends insists on saying this to me every time I mention my sister and it’s appalling the anger I feel towards her.

Also - telling her how well she looks probably isn’t such a great idea - I said it once to my sister and got a very strange look back from her.

The one thing I did completely correctly and I didn’t even know I was doing it - she shaved her head without telling me - it was very very early on in her treatment, I met her for lunch and never commented on how good her wig looked - for the simple reason that it looked so amazingly good I didn’t realise it wasn’t her hair. She was very chuffed with that and it boosted her confidence.

My sister didn’t want to chat about it much so it was very much playing it by ear. When it was first diagnosed she got really fed up with people phoning constantly. I deliberately sent her a text telling her that I loved her, was thinking about her, and my lack of phone calls were not because I didn’t care but I knew how exhausted she was with having to repeat the same information over and over again. I told her I would phone once a week at a certain time - if she didn’t want to talk she got her husband to answer the phone and if she did want to talk she talked. I made it very clear that I would never be hurt if she didn’t want to chat.

You sound like a lovely friend. I’m sure your instincts will guide you.

Hi AnnaBell,

What a kind idea, to join this forum and get some ideas. You are a good friend.

Well I can only go by what I felt about contact from friends. I think it is a fine balance, one which you appear aware of. I had one friend who never mentioned my cancer, ops etc and I began to feel that she didn’t want to know but when I thought about it she was not sure how much I wanted to talk about my health.

Another friend was on the phone too much, I was tired and sometimes just got fed up of relaying the same story to all those that phoned. So you see striking a balance is key. I think you will be able to judge your friend best.
Personally I loved receiving flowers, not just after the op but weeks later when I was feeling a little fed up and frustrated.

I well written letter or card was always welcome. Another friend bought me tokens to spend at a hairdresser for when my hair grew back that was really welcomed and I now go there regularly.

I think you will understand if your friend cuts conversations short so don’t be hurt if you get short shrift now and then.
My best wishes for a successful treatment plan for your friend.

Take care


Hi Anna,
What a shock for you all. Sounds like you are a great sister and will give lots of support. Everyone is different all I’de suggest is listen to your sister’s needs , try to be posative (but some of the comments wear a bit thin however well intentioned - try not to take offence if she snaps at you) - she has a lot to get through - and it sounds like you will be there for her which is all you can do.
Hope all goes well for you both

Sorry Anna misread your first thread meant friend when i put sister!

Hi Anna

I can only repeat the above. I was a little overwhelmed by lots of phone calls when I was first diagnosed, now my friends call me every few days, week or so and I find that’s a fine enough balance for me. My best friend I do speak to probably every couple of days.

Also I have a friend a couple of hundred miles away and I like to receive emails. I also like receiving cards, I got a scarf “to keep me warm” from my friends 7 year old daughter and a lovely card with “this is a hug” printed on and that was very sweet.

You sound like a very considerate friend so I’m sure you will find the right things to do and say

Cecelia. x

Thank you all

for your help advice and support! And Carolihne, don’t worry about the mistake - she’s one of the two friends I have closest to a sister!

I’ll have to go by her guidance when she needs help and when she doesn’t - the last thing I want to do is overburden her with messages, etc. when she’s not up to it. I think that’s where many friends and family have difficulty - they step back to give space when it’s closeness that’s needed and vice versa, because they just don’t know what to do.

All the best to all of you…