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How to Give Support?
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How to Give Support?

My dearest friend willl be undergoing her first surgery this week (age 51).  Although I understand we can't know much before the laparotomy, her doctor (who spoke to me with permission) feels that her many symptoms (severe pain, bloating, fatigue, constipation) along with very elevated CA125 and evidence of lesions that have metasicized to a nearby organ (pancreas) suggest that OVCA is very likely.  

I suffered endometrial cancer over an 8 year period, so I have some idea what she is going through, and may go through in weeks and months to come.  I know she will be turning to me for a lot of support - practical physical support as well as emotional.  

I was wondering if people could tell me what they would have appreciated most from a friend during their worst illness. . . what tasks specifically, etc.  What would have made a difference for the better?  What should a friend NOT have said or done?  

I realize that every individual is different, but we have a close friendship, and I welcome any thoughts on this.  Thanks much.
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7 Comments
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Avatar_f_tn
One thing I appreciated was someone NOT asking what I wanted but doing it.. ie... bring food to my home... playing with my 3 dogs... etc... when someone asks me what I need I will always say NOTHING. So I truly loved when people did and never asked..

Also when I was going through chemo and then my surgery I really appreciated when someone did NOT say.. You look great when I knew I looked like heck.. honesty went a long way for me... Sometimes its better not to say anything than to lie...

I also wanted someone to talk reality to.  not everything is going to be okay..and those awful platitudes...  because nothing in my life is the same..

You are a good friend to want to help...I also loved that someone bought me a soft cushy throw to go over my shoulders  when I was cold in the hospital.. I was there 7 days and really appreciated this soft throw.....

I truly am a better person today for having been diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer... I am a better friend, wife, and mom...

Good luck to your friend and you.. Ronni

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187666_tn?1331176945
I have 2 friends with OvCa. I've found sending funny, random cards is appreciated. Asking informed questions is appreciated. So when one mentions that she's started on Avastin, at least I'm familiar with it and don't give her a blank look. Touching is helpful. I think sometimes they feel like people don't want to touch them because they're "diseased" and look sick. Foolish really since it's not contagious. When I see my friends, they're quick to grab a hug, hold a hand. Perhaps they're feeling unlovable but it's nice to know someone still loves them, not just in word, but in deed too.

If one day they look particularly good and energetic, I'll say so: looks like you're having a good day; love your rosy cheeks. On the not so good, gray days, I just ask how their day is going. Stay focused on them when they talk; don't look around like you have to be someplace else. Those are just a few things that come to my mind.
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349465_tn?1289085364
Both of you have made wonderful suggestions. (Ronni and ireneo)

I too would like for my closest friends to go to the trouble to actually keep up with what treatments I am getting, rather than asking EVERY time they call.  I've given a few the same information over and over. Isn't it irritating?  For goodness sakes folks, WRITE IT DOWN with the dates! LOL

Yes, and don't lie to me about looking "great" when I look as if I've been sucking lemons for months.  You CAN tell me my hair is a pretty color.  ('cause it is..) The soft, cushy, throw is a great idea.  My sister bought one for me and I hung onto that thing as if it was worth millions.  It meant so much to me and still does.

Another suggestion of not asking what we need, just doing it. I don't like asking for ANYTHING and having cancer has not changed that.  I do find I can ask my daughter to do things, but not others.  A cooked meal delivered is a wonderful thing to us.  I'm going through a spell of not feeling like cooking again.  It's so loving when someone just brings it. (Jan brought me a meal when I was sickly and it was so appreciated.)  I also like giving stuff away now. Just take it and don't ask questions.  If we didn't want you to have it, we wouldn't offer.

Cards are great too. They always come when I really need a boost.  My brother is sick with cancer too, yet he uses his energy to send me cards. Every little thing means the world to me now. Take care of your friend. You are on the right track.
Teresa
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Avatar_f_tn
Thanks much for your thoughts and suggestions (I'll keep checking back).  I will purchase a soft throw tomorrow!  I have taken everything you suggest to heart, and will be passing it along to her little circle of friends, who all wonder the best way to support her.  :)
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167426_tn?1254089835
A hug and a kiss goes a long way to telling  you love the person, share photos,  food brought in is very helpful, a new soft warm robe and soft slippers, Leslee always loved the massages we ordered for her.  We also did her nails, bright Red cheery colors, if you have a beautician friend, have her come and fix your friends hair.  When you look good , you feel better.  We brought in meals after daughter was able to eat,  things we knew she liked.
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408448_tn?1286887421
I agree with the others.  For me the practical friends were greatly appreciated.  These were not the ones showing up with flowers or fancy little gifts.  These were the friends showing up with toilet paper in bulk quantities, huge bottles of Tide, paper towels, all of the school supplies for my grandson,  bread, milk, etc.  

During chemo people said "call me if you want someone to take you to your treatments".  I never called.  I appreciated it when as my chemo nurse was starting my I/V, one of my friends would show up unexpectedly to sit and talk me through the long treatments.

I appreciate the friends that have still kept in touch after all these months.  Right after diagnosis everyone is there.  Time goes by and fewer people call or write.  The ones that stick by you all the way are priceless.  Marie
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272338_tn?1252284004
All of the girls have given you excellent advice. As you know, chemo can take a lot out of you, along with the stress and fear of finding out you have cancer.
  For me, one of the most important things is just to have someone there. Sometimes we need to just talk, about our hopes and fears, about what we are facing with treatments and so on. Having someone there who will listen and who has an idea of what you are talking about means the world. When we are scared, we don't always want to hear that it will be alright, we want to talk about it. When we lose our hair, we don't want to hear that it will grow back, we want to mourn the loss ad cry about it, so someone that will let us cry on their shoulder means so much.
  Just be there for her. If she needs to talk, listen. If she asks your advice or opinion, give it honestly. We are grown women and need to be treated that way.
  It is great that you are so close to her and want to do so much. She is lucky to have a friend like you.
   Chris
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