My friend has cancer

How will I cope without her?

It will take some time to adjust, says our elder, but now it’s your turn to be there for your friend.

Dear EWC

I have a friend that called me this morning and said, “I have breast cancer.” It completely shattered my heart but at that time I was only half awake. It hit around 10 when I was fully awake and then I had like three mental breakdowns. What if she doesn’t make it through surgery? What if I lose her? What if the treatment doesn’t work? I can’t lose her — she is my rock; she’s been with me since day one. I go to her for everything. I can’t live without her. Then after the surgery I won’t see her for a few months. Which is gonna kill me because I need to be able to see my best friend and talk to her. I feel like I’m pushing everyone away because I’m just so upset about this. I also feel as this will affect my school work because I can’t do anything without thinking about her and her well being. Then I burst into tears. I don’t know what to do anymore. Please help.

Grammy-Annie replies

I am so sorry you are struggling with this. The shock is understandable. It may take you a little while to adjust to the idea. Then you need to be strong for your friend. She has been your rock. She has been there when you needed her. Now it’s your turn to be there for her. It won’t help anyone for you to express your fears to her. I am sure whatever you have to say, she has already thought of. Most of all, don’t let your fear push you away from her.

Try to find out as much about her condition as you can. What kind of breast cancer does she have and what stage is it? Then start researching treatments. It’s 2019. Treatment has come a very long way since the 60s when my grandmother was diagnosed. There are many different kinds of treatments and even the old stand-bys have much less horrific side effects. I don’t know why you won’t see her until after the surgery, but it always helps if you can stay in close touch. Research has shown that every cancer victim who has a “co-patient” does much better. A co-patient is someone who goes to all of the doctor appointments, treatments, tests etc with the patient. Apparently you can’t be this person. But if you can talk to her every time she has treatment or tests, you can help to encourage her. Her mental attitude is all-important at this time. You can help her to fight and remind her of all the reasons there are to live. These things often make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Don’t let your fears run away with you. None of us have any control over these things. The number of our days on this earth is written down somewhere and none of us know what that number is. She could survive cancer and get hit by a bus. She could survive cancer and you could get hit by a bus.
How do you think it would make her feel if she knew that her illness was affecting your schoolwork? You need to show her that because of her friendship, you have become the kind of person who can take care of your own responsibilities and be there for her too. Have you asked yourself how you would want her to react if the situation were reversed? If you were sick and she fell apart, it would make you feel even worse.

With today’s technology and social media, try to come up with a plan that will allow you to talk to her, even face-to-face, as often as possible. She will be OK as long as she knows you will be OK. So come up with a plan to keep in touch with her regularly. Can you be there with her for the surgery? Find out as much as you can about her disease and her options so you can have an intelligent conversation with her if the subject comes up.
Right now your fears are about you. What will I do without her? That is perfectly normal and understandable. But now is the time to toughen up and start thinking about what you can do for her. Nothing you can do, nothing she can do, will change what is in the future. But you can make sure that the here and now is as great as possible, and help her to deal with the future, whatever that is.

I know this is hard. I lost my husband to cancer a few years ago. One of his favorite sayings was, “Ain’t none of us gettin’ out of here alive”. I don’t know how old you are, but I assume that you are young, probably a teenager. If we are lucky, and the Fates are kind, most of us have a lot of years to get used to the idea that everyone we love, those who love us and even we, will die one day. Sometimes, we get hit between the eyes when we lose someone in an untimely manner. When my husband was fighting cancer, we would often say to one another, “We cannot know what lies on the road ahead, but whatever it is, we will handle it”. You need to know that in your heart. Whatever happens, you will handle it, and you will help your friend face whatever lies ahead.
Good luck, dear. Please write again if we can help.

Letter #: 434036
Category: Friendship

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