It was a beautiful Fall day, a good day for the three of us “sisters from another mister” to share some shopping, fellowship, sushi.
And, oh yes, a mammogram.
One of my friends had a scare in the past, so we went with her for this appointment. We prayed for her as she underwent this most dreaded of tests on the morning of our outing. (My other friend has had just one mammogram in her lifetime and says she doesn’t plan to have another any time soon.)
The day after our outing, my friend with the appointment received a dreaded call: “We need to see you again. We’ve found a shadow.” Her next appointment is Monday.
I know the fear that rests in her heart. Two years ago next month, I got the same call, had the same follow-up mammogram, followed by an ultrasound and a biopsy. Just a tiny speck, but it turned out to be an insidious growth — a fast-growing, estrogen-fed tumor.
Because the cancer was discovered early, my treatment was brief but intense. After surgery, I underwent five days of radiation treatments, twice a day. No chemotherapy was prescribed, but I was given an estrogen inhibitor that I am expected to take for the rest of my life.
I’ve had several friends before and after my brush with cancer who had a much greater trial. A dear 70-something woman in our church is currently sporting a lovely bald head (when she chooses not to wear her wig or a cap) and is as beautiful and perky as ever — except on the days when the chemo lays her low. And even then, she is beautiful.
Because I’ve “been there, done that, got the T-shirt”, I kind of know what to say to these friends in their time of need, but maybe some of you don’t. If you love someone who is dealing with breast cancer and you want to know how you can help, I’d like to share a recent post by author and Bible teacher Margaret Feinberg. Margaret is also a survivor of breast cancer. Her recent blog post says just what I would say, only better.
Here is Margaret’s advice:
She needs YOU. Yes, YOU. You are God’s plan. You are the one to give the gift of presence.
I know it’s scary. I know it’s hard. I know it’s uncomfortable.
But YOU are the one who is meant to be there for the long haul. Everyone is going to disappear in a few weeks or months or once chemo is over…but the toll this will take on her will last long, long beyond that.
What to Say:
Remember the magic words: You’re in my thoughts, you’re in my prayers, and you are loved. Keep in touch. Set a reminder on your phone once a week. Text her and say, “In my thoughts and prayers today.” She doesn’t need you to fix anything or say any magical words. She just needs to know you are present and there. This will be particularly true in six months when she feels all alone, alone, alone.
What to Do:
Offer to do things beyond cook a meal (EVERYONE wants to do that). Instead, pick up the lawn mower. Hire a handyman for a few hours. Pick up gas gift cards (she’s going to drive a billion miles to the hospital). Don’t buy her anything pink. She’ll be sweet, but there will be a period of time (and it may last forever) that she’ll hate everything pink. Some women find their identities in cancer. Most of us don’t. We end up de-pinking everything in our lives.
What to Give:
Avoid giving to middle-men breast cancer organizations on her behalf. “Despite the fact that Komen trademarked the phrase ’for the cure,’ only 16 percent of the $472 million raised in 2011, the most recent year for which financial reports are available, went toward research,” according to The New York Times.
And .16 cents on every dollar going toward to research ain’t gonna buy anyone a cure. We need the whole dollar going to research.
If she wants you to give, give directly to researchers so the whole amount goes to beating this disease. Rather than do a walk on her behalf, get together with friends and put together cash. Ask her to hand over one of her medical bills up to a certain amount and pay it. She will probably pay maximum out of pocket for years to come and max out in certain areas of insurance coverage (don’t tell her yet—she has is a lot to take in).
If she has any type of treatment plan that extends beyond 12 weeks, know that this is going to take a heavy financial toll on her and her family. Some treatment plans, like mine, last more than a year. She or her spouse may be struggling to hold onto her job to support her family or keep her health insurance. If at all possible, do what you can to make sure her family has work, a job, and insurance.
It’s all big and scary. But remember, as followers of Jesus, we’re the people who run in when everyone else is running out.
You got this. You can do this. She needs you. Be there. Don’t leave. No matter what.
For more information and to meet Margaret, visit her blog at http://margaretfeinberg.com/breast-cancer-help/#more-28374
I’ve got a new entry in my calendar for November — my annual mammogram. I’m choosing to approach it as a fearless victor, because to keep the appointment with any other expectation would be self-defeating. And because I believe…..
God has already won this battle.
I think I’ll put THAT on a T-shirt!
Today’s “God-Spot” is a date circled on my calendar. For Day 24 of the quest to Write for 31 Days, I want to share an important message for people who love someone with breast cancer. They need you. To read more posts from my 31 days of blogging, click on the button.