How to Support a Friend Who's Been Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
During the month of October, we are on a mission to inspire friends to connect and remind each other to check their boobies. We also want to encourage people to reach out to their friends who have either beat breast cancer or are actively fighting breast cancer's butt. We know that it can be hard to find the right words to say so we got super personal with Friends Do This fan, total badass, and breast cancer thriver, Liz Palm.
Liz was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26 (26 people!). Now in her third year of remission (hell yeah!), Liz knows a thing or two about what to say (and not say!) when the unthinkable happens to a friend or family member. In this Q&A, Liz sheds some much needed light on how you can support a friend or loved one who has been diagnosed with or is being treated for breast cancer. Because that's what friends do.
When were you diagnosed with breast cancer, and how did you find out?
I was diagnosed at age 26 with breast cancer. I discovered the lump myself and immediately was proactive about it and went to my primary care physician who then sent me in for an ultrasound and biopsy.
What sort of treatment did you receive?
They started right away with aggressive treatment because of my age and the size of my tumor. The breast cancer I had was ER PR positive her2 negative stage one. I received treatment at Tufts in Boston. My treatment plan was 16 rounds of chemo, followed by surgery, which was a partial mastectomy and revision and lift on both sides, and then 32 rounds of radiation. The treatment was a success and this October I hit my 3 year mark of remission!
Did you have a support network?
Tufts offered a women's support group. We would meet weekly just to talk and vent, which was very helpful although at 26 it’s hard to relate to older women at times.
Do you have any tips for what to say to a friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer or is starting treatment? Are there any phrases to be cautious of when writing?
When I first got diagnosed I felt people didn’t know how to act or know what to say around me so instead they would usually say all the wrong things, “ I know what you’re going through my mom had it” or “my aunt had that and she didn’t make it," or “but you’re so young you shouldn’t have cancer.”
I found more comfort with people just being themselves and just being there for me rather than trying to relate or say whatever comes to mind. When you’re facing a life or death situation, all you want is for people to be there for you and tell you that everything’s going to be ok.
Were you gifted anything particularly helpful or special from friends/family when you were diagnosed? Or going through treatment?
Keeping a journal and painting was a great hobby for me and kept my mind busy.
Do you have any favorite quotes you call on when providing someone (or yourself!) encouragement?
My favorite quote to go by is “I have not yet begun to fight.”
What advice would you have for other women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer? Maybe you have a “top 4 things I wish someone had told me” kind of list?
Some things I wish people told me from the start is that it’s ok to shut down and shut people out. You don’t always have to have a positive attitude but it helps time pass if you do. You’re going to have great days but also terrible ones; trust your network and don’t hesitate to reach out. I always remind myself that there’s always someone going through way worse.
More About Liz
Liz enjoys being involved with the cancer community but also doesn't let it consume her life. She works hard to find a good balance between both but mostly focusses on her career of being a hairdresser (she loves helping cancer survivors with tips and tricks for their post chemo hair!), a dog mom, and fiancé.
Real Talk: Liz is Carolyn's (FDT Co-founder!) hairdresser (proof below)! They became instant friends and Liz has been an incredibly positive force for us here at Friends Do This. From day one, she's encouraged our work and mission, proving that we are in fact making the world just a tiny bit better, one piece of snail mail at a time!
Liz and Carolyn looking fabulous AF, per usual.
Do YOU Have Some Advice to Share?
We'd love to hear your ideas, tips, hell to the No's, etc. when it comes to supporting a friend with breast cancer. Share it in the comments section below, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or heck, drop a letter in the mail: PO Box 490 Rockland, MA 02370.
CARDS WITH A PURPOSE: BREAST CANCER AWARENESS
Shop All Boobs Are Beautiful where 100% of profits will benefit our friends at Bright Pink! Or, shop our entire collection of Breast Cancer Awareness Greeting Cards where 5% of ever card sold in Ocotber will support Bright Pink.
Whether a friend beat cancer or is actively fighting cancer's ass, send them some snail mail love to remind them that they are not fighting and thriving alone!