"Sort Of" Friend Diagnosed W/ Breast Cancer-what Can I Do?

Updated on October 12, 2010
A.P. asks from Austin, TX
20 answers

Sort of a strange situation and not sure how I can help. The wife of a high school friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I've only seen her maybe 5 times in 12 years - we live 1200 miles apart. I don't really have any contact with her except when I see her face-to-face, therefore I wouldn't really consider that we are "friends". But of course I want to support her however I can during this difficult time.

If we lived in the same town, I would take over meals, so I was thinking of a gift card for local places they could bring dinner home from. But, what could she really use during her chemo treatments? And is a card appropriate? What do I say? "Sorry you have cancer" just doesn't seem to cut it!

This is unchartered territory for me - amazingly I have not had any close friends or relatives diagnosed with breast cancer before this. Any advice on how I can help out would be greatly appreciated.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Houston on

I think that anything you send her she will appreciate, even though you aren't close I wouldn't feel awkward. It's the right thing to do, so bless you for that.

I would second the idea of the pink warrior bandana, and maybe a soft blanket. Books and magazines are also a great idea. maybe a gift card for a half price books, or even something for DVD's.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Chicago on

I know people react to cancer in many different ways. Some women embrace the whole 'live pink' thing, but others just want to be very private. Since you don't know this woman well, it is hard to tell which she will be.

I think a nice note to her and to her family just saying you were sorry to hear about her diagnosis and offering support and encouragement is completely appropriate and unobtrusive.

You might also include a gift certificate to a local restaurant that delivers ('For a night when you don't feel like cooking') or even some movie theater coupons ('Hope this can help take your mind off of things some evening')

Those are not too personal, but could give practical help to her and the whole family, even though you aren't there to bring a dinner over.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Just went through breast cancer myself. It was very helpful to me to receive notes from people saying they were thinking of me and/or offering support. I didn't use the majority of offers of help, but it was very nice to know they were there. I had always wondered if you said to someone - I am thinking of you - if it matters. I found it was very comforting.

I love flowers. People sent me flowers when I had surgery, started chemotherapy, ended chemotherapy, etc. Not the same people. Seeing those beautiful flowers picked up my spirits.
In your situation a nice card/note that says something like I heard you are being treated for breast cancer. Wanted to let you know you are in my thoughts/prayers. Let me know if I can help. Would you be comfortable being someone she could call if she needs to talk to someone? If so offer her the option of calling to talk. Sometimes it's nice to have someone to listen to you. The people closest to you are not always the best option. Many times you have to censure yourself because of how they are responding to the situation. God bless you for thinking about reaching out to this person.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My diagnosis was one year ago this week. Chemo ended in June.
An acknowledgement of her "new journey" is very appropriate. A card
meant so much to me. An undersized soft warm blanket for the couch for watching tv was my favorite gift from a friend. It became like a security
blanket for me. There are two websites (below) that she can create for herself to update her progress to her online friends. The repetitve explaining of her latest procedures can get monotenous. I will send you my webpage in a private message. It alleviates her responsibilites to report to everyone in seperate conversations. Friends can leave encouraging notes there for her for all to read. A friend that can listen is sometimes the
biggest treasure. You need neither experience or advice; just a compassionate ear. Just the acknowledgement of her plight will be
appreciated. Good luck.
P.S. Chemo dries out the whole body. Body creams, lip gloss, teardrops, saline spray for nasal, and antibacterial "anything". Chemo can be lonely due to the invasion of germs. I didn't go anywhere or touch anything without my travel towelettes. My husband had to use them too.
Cozy socks, knit hat or bandana or sleep caps.
Walmart has $1 pink bandana in their purse department. A large bag to carry blanket/pillow/medical file/book/laptop/journal.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Send a little note with a small gift. Chemo will make her very nauseous, drain her energy, and not mention the general fear and worry.

"I'm so sorry to hear you and your family are going through this. Just know that you are in our hearts and prayers and you can always call if you need to talk."

Some good things for hospital stays and recovery around the home, slippers, robe, pretty sleep mask, hand lotion, lip gloss, blanket, flowers.... just something small to let her know you care can bring a lot of strength.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Go to the Ford website and get her a "pink warrior" bandana. Then get her some pink mittens and a scarf... she will need them for her chemo treatments. Send them to her with a card that says... I just wanted you to know I was thinking of you. I want to honor you today, nobody wants to be a "pink warrior" but I know you will fight with all that is within you to beat this. I will be fighting with you in thoughts and prayers! I am on a foundation (just recently started) Team Tiara that began as a Breast Cancer 3-Day team. Susan G Komen has 14 cities that participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day. We participants walk 60 miles in 3 days to show our honor/respect for the pink warriors past and present. This year we took our team a step farther and are now trying to minister to individuals that God places in our path as they fight their battles. We strive to reach out to meet their needs whatever they are. Thursday I will be sitting with a lady who is going through her chemo with one of our quilts that we provide for those warriors. They use them for their treatment and then we monogram their names on the back and ask them never to let us see them under that quilt again : ) In order to walk those 60 miles each of us on the team has to raise $2300.00. You could also let her know that you have made a donation in her name to a 3-Day walker who will carry her name all 60 miles in her honor! If you would like to donate to my walk you can do so at


I applaud you for wanting to do something... I know she will really appreciate it!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

You are very kind to think of what you can do for a "sort of" friend at such a distance. Most of us wouldn't think of it. A gift card for a local restaurant for takeout would be great. A card that says "thinking of you" would work very well, but nothing too gloomy. A phone call, email, text, every now and then to let her know you're thinking of her would be good. You could work through her husband, your old friend, to find out what is needed. You sound like a great friend.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I agree--handwritten note card letting her know you are thinking of her and sending prayers and strength and a small gift--maybe a nice hand cream, scented candle, etc. would be very nice. Of course you don't have to come right out and say you know she has cancer--she'll know the reason behind your well wishes!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Buffalo on

It is great that you want to be so supportive.

Food can be a touch subject while on chemo. Smells tastes can make someone very nausious. What I would do is find a cleaning company in the neighborhood, and tell her in a getwell card that "I am sorry you are sick and we are so far away. i would like to help you, if you are not offended I would like to contract a company to come and clean for you during your treatments. If this offends you please let me know what I can do to help."

Then I would call the company and let them know all services for address ### up to $amount should be billed to you. Explain to them the services you want for her, so if she calls them to set up the service you are all set. If you explain to her and company that once a week, once every 2 weeks what ever you are willing to do should be laid out on the table so there is no misunderstanding.

Good luck, and I am prying for your ... friend.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Especially over time, the "thinking of you" cards will be greatly appreciated. The well wishes come heavily in the beginning and then taper off quite a bit. It almost seems as if people have forgotten. Simple "I was thinking of you today and know the battle must be hard." Do not mention "having" cancer. Instead say "battling" cancer. You don't want her ever to "have" it be a part of her but instead something she is battling against.

As time goes on, comments like, "I was watching _____ and was reminded of what a warrior you are. So proud of you." If she has kids say things like, "Your husband and kids must be so proud of how courageously you are battling," etc. It will be a battle and most likely a constant one for a while.

If this is true, be sure to tell her that she is in your prayers for strength and healing. Bless you for caring.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

Since you are so far away, contact the local Cancer Society and ask them for some suggestions. It is hard to be in either position you wanting to help and the person with the diagnosis not knowing what to do or expect. You could send the card with a nice note about learning of the diagnosis. Some people have a hard time accepting the C word. Perhaps a small journal so that she can put down her deepest thoughts to get them out of her mind.

Right now she is on the "runaway freight train" where you see the person plastered to the front of a train and can do nothing to stop it. There is a protocol that must be followed and you have no time to think just react. I am a survivor of 13 years and I remember those many thoughts that went flying around in my mind all at once and the numbing feelings and emotions.

The cleaning service might be nice but then the smell of chemicals may cause her to be ill same as food. So please be careful.

Thank you for thinking of her. It will mean a lot to her that someone else has taken the time to think of her in her hour of need.

The other S.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

If she is doing chemo, you may want to send a "care" package. Trashy magazines, chick books, hard candies, chapstick, etc. There is a lot of boredom during those trips. Maybe even a nice day bag to take back and forth? A get well card would be appropriate too. If you are looking to do meals, gift cards are good, those quick fix places, or even some of those places that do frozen meal deliveries.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Longview on

I think your gift card idea is a good one and mention in your card that if you were closer you would love to bring meals to their family but you hope in your own way this will help them out since you cant' be there. You could also find out if they have a bank account set up for donations, I know treatment is terribly expensive and most people have accounts set up for those who want to donate.



answers from Dallas on

Hmm, know what that's like....
Nice that you want to go further than a card.

Chemo going in can make the person a bit cold. Pretty throws are nice. (Course, some chemo places warm blankets and give them to her upon request.)

If surgery is involved, my favorite present was fuzzy slippers you could slip into, and a pretty throw to put on the hospital bed to give it color (instead of staring at hospital white). I could throw it around my shoulders for a walk because those gowns are revealing.

One of my distant friends was a reader so I got a bookmark with "Believe in the Cure" on it.

A paid appointment with a cancer nutritionist or oncology nurse will help her side step many side effects of chemo.

Some wigs are free through the Cancer Center but... limited in choices.
The lowest quality of wigs are scratchy and you can't use a part.
The $400 wigs are better by letting you part your hair and are softer on your soft head. Most or all chemo patients for breast cancer lose their hair. Or, perhaps there is a website that shows how some bald women can look fabulous being bald with big earrings, great makeup, learn how to create eyebrows and eyelashes through liner, a fake tan (from tanning place or daily creams), etc. I've heard that people with wigs kind of end up not wanting to wear them all the time and certainly not to bed.

That's not you, but you could offer to do research for her online (local wig places, nutritionists, informational sites, yoga to de-stress) or web social sites for breast cancer patients. A book on surviving chemo that is motivating because of all the positive stories.

Like the one about a paid housecleaning.

There is a book called _________ that helps show them foods that may not cause nausea. (Hopefully she has a partner to do groceries and cook or bring in food because it's not easy being the cook when those strong smells arise.)

Chemo gives you chemo brain. You forget things, you can't stay on a project long, etc. So, staying organized and getting the basic responsibilities done are HARD. You can't do that for her but perhaps your friend could help her set up autopay for her bills, a file system for medical papers that will pile in, etc. (Yes, one big wish is for a secretary to handle most everything. I had mail stacked up for months and the ones that weren't on auto pay, oopsie. Having Outlook on computer set up to remind them of imiportant appointments or get togethers.



answers from Austin on

As someone who unfortuately knows several people/families who have been diagnosed with breast cancer...
I would not worry about feeling awkward. Do what you feel comfortable (gift cards are a great idea) to assist. The cost on health issues is a huge burden on families - even with the best insurance. The person will appreciate the thoughfulness of your gesture. Obviously this person made an good impression on you - and you are sending support from afar.
Best wishes



answers from Austin on

It might feel weird, but the fact is that there is NO wrong way to reach out at a time like this. I was cross country for my aunt going through cancer and I had local restaurants deliver meals to them. Even when they didn't deliver, they stepped up and did.



answers from Houston on

A gift card for meals is very thoughtful and could definitely be used by the family. A simple note "You are in our thoughts and prayers as you and your family navigate this difficult and stressful time" would be sufficient. I have found that in times of crisis a simple note or thought goes a very long way, especially from someone you don't expect it from.



answers from San Antonio on

A., I really don't think you need to get her anything that that can be purchased. I know that you say she is really not your friend, but I really believe that God puts situation like this one for a very good reason......and that is to help in anyway we can. Usually when "bad" things happen people tend to run away because they simply don't know what to do. If she is not your friend then become one. Sometimes a phone call can mean so much. She has a very rough road ahead and I'm sure she could use a real friend. I hope you believe in the Golden Rule because what goes around comes around. We all need to become more humanitarian in someway or another.

The best of luck,
Mommy of T.



answers from Killeen on

Speaking from expirience - something a person going through Chemo can always use and will always use after their ttreatments is a blanket - when my mother went thru her chemo and raidation I made her a fleece tie blanket - I found the fleece with the pink ribbons at a fabric store and put a pale pink on the other side and tied the two together. I also made a travel pillow to match - taking a standard size travel pillow and enough material to tie around it in the same fashion to match - my mother took it to every session along with her relaxation cd and head set - she is working on her 3rd year of being cancer free and keeps her blanket on her chair in the living room and every year when her and my father travel to their family vacation to see my aunts and uncles every spring - someone always asks her where she got her set - because they want one. They wash easy - sometime the ties need to be retied - but that is to be expected.
If you want the instructions - I am more than willing to share or if you pay for the material and shipping I am always willing to make the set - when it comes to breast cancer - I am an avis supporter in every fashion.
Be there if she ever needs to talk. But dont pressure for information. Understand she will be sore and achey from the chemo - she will lose her taste buds and may not want to eat - she will need to force herself. She needs to keep up her strength and needs encouragement from those around her - and they need the help and encouragment from their loves ones as well.
If I can help - or if you have questions - Please ask!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions