Friday, September 29, 2006

Breast Cancer, Pt.2

This is for the guys out there. The ones who have a wife or daughter or cousin or sister or friend or any woman they care about coping with breast cancer—or any serious challenge, for that matter. It’s from a letter I wrote to a friend in that situation--because breast cancer doesn’t just affect the woman herself. I wrote it because it’s really scary watching someone you love go through something like this and this is when you need each other more than ever.

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When women are scared or going through something tough, we want and need to know that someone knows and understands and cares what we're going through. In other words, you don't need to have solutions for (my friend). What she most needs is to know that you understand how scared she is. She needs to know that you care how scared she is and that it matters more to you than any change to her physical appearance. She needs to hear you say it. She needs to know it's okay for her to be scared. She needs to hear you say you'll be there for her no matter what.

Then she can focus on doing what she needs to do.

I'm guessing you're in shock and scared and going through hell, too. And it's going to be tough to do that for her. If you can do some things that make her laugh, maybe make you both laugh, that will help. If you can surprise her with little things that make her smile, that will help.

One thing I've learned about really tough times is that making sure I do things that make me smile, every day, is makes a huge difference. It is a reminder that I won't always feel this way. It is a reminder that no matter what horrible things are going on in my life, I have the power to choose to be happy--even if only for a moment or two. And I believe that choosing to smile or laugh a little every day gives us resilience that helps us have the strength to cope with those difficult times.

(My friend) instinctively knows she needs to find ways to laugh--no matter how hard that may be. Encourage that, if you can. Find ways to laugh with her. If all a silly movie does is distract you both for a little while, it will help. If all a walk in the park does is let you both feel closer to each other, that will help. If a silly card or a small box of chocolate makes her laugh or smile that will help.

You don't have to fix the cancer. You can't. That's a job her doctors and her body will have to do. But you can help her through it by letting her know you know how scared she is and that you'll be there for her.

And it's amazing how much of a difference that understanding can make to a woman. You'll find that (my friend) is stronger if she knows she doesn't have to be. You'll find that she's less scared if she knows it's okay if she's terrified out of her mind.

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To all the women out there fighting breast cancer, you are in my thoughts and prayers. To the men who love women fighting breast cancer--or any major challenge--I hope these words will help you feel less powerless to be there for those women and bring you closer together.

April

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