Given that one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life, chances are you'll have the opportunity to don your pink ribbons and stand by in support of your friend, sister, mother, or daughter. Breast cancer is highly treatable if caught early, but the treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy, or some subset of these four) is unthinkably challenging. Breast cancer warriors have little choice but to fight long and hard, and in the process face an enormous physical and mental battle.
I've been a breast cancer warrior for eight months, chemo and surgery behind me, radiation and hormone therapy around the corner. My battalion is made up of loving, brilliant, powerful, and hilarious soldiers who have made this journey one of thriving, not just surviving. They have fed me, kept me organized and clean, encouraged me daily, spoiled me with surprises, and made me feel strong and sexy, even when each and every hair on my body had disappeared.
Science has proven that cancer patients who journey through treatment with support have an edge regarding survival. Below are twelve ways to be a breast cancer support soldier -- the difference you will make is beyond measure.
1. Bring the Good Stuff: Love, laughter, support, affection, companionship are all essential. Avoid probing questions unless she invites you in. Leave your own fears at the door.
2. Rock the Bald: Take her to get a henna tattoo on her beautiful bald head. She will feel like an exotic queen.
3. Do Her Dirty Work: Come over to her house and clean it up. Organize her pantry and do her laundry.
4. Avoid the ER: Label her 30+ pill bottles with red sharpie on the lids so she doesn't swallow a laxative when reaching for an Immodium. Wash your hands whenever you're close by.
5. Run the Show: She will need meals delivered, kidcare, rides to treatment, errands run, and general caretaking. Take the lead role and help her figure out just what she needs. Then organize and rally the troops.
6. Shower Her With the Little Things: Send her texts to tell her you are thinking of her and that you love her. Drop flowers or a pair of big earrings to compliment her henna'ed head by her door. Send a card or gift in the mail, sing a song on her voicemail. Do this often, all the way through her treatment and beyond, and don't expect a response.
7. Keep Her Cozy: Send her fuzzy socks, candles, and hydrating lotion. Make her a quilt filled with art and love. Before her surgery, send her soft pajamas that open up in the front.
8. Run Off With the Rugrats: If she has kids, take them with you as often as you can. Fill this time with joyful noise. Return them with a smile and a spotless report.
9. Heal With Humor: Liberally send lengthy viral jokes and raunchy or adorable (depending on her taste) YouTube clips. Share her medical marijuana and have a chuckle fest. Spend a day on the couch with her watching funny movies.
10. Fill Her Plate: Bring nourishment to her doorstep. Sign up for the meal train, check in with the lead support team to see if she's eating kale salad or ice cream shakes. Family food needs might differ, so plan to feed multiple palates if necessary. Deliver in disposable containers.
11. Reach Out With Retail: Take her shopping to get to know her new body. Honor what was lost and celebrate what is new. Visit the lingerie department when she's ready. Bring champagne.
12. Love Her Up: Understand that at times she may feel a raw and indescribable fear that is hard to comprehend. Do whatever she needs to help her through it. She will find immense comfort and healing in your love.
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