Whatever You Do, Don't Ask.

October is about breast cancer "awareness." What if we made it about action instead?


Here we go: breast cancer awareness month is upon us. I’m here with a simple step you can take today toward real breast cancer awareness. 

Have you heard the stats? One in 8 people will be affected by breast cancer at least once in their lifetime. A whopping 30% of those men and women will face a metastatic recurrence. Chances are you know someone affected by breast cancer right now, either for the first time, or again. You can take a step to help them today.

But here’s the catch: don’t ask your friend what you can do. I’ll say it again: don’t ask. 

Here’s why. When you say to your friend, “If there is anything I can do for you, let me know” or, “Let me know how I can help,” I know you mean the best and I know you’ll do whatever it is they ask. You’ve made a loving gesture, but what you’ve also done is let yourself off the hook while placing the burden of the mental load square on your friend. They already have a lot on their minds because, as we know, life doesn’t stop when you have cancer – it just gets more complicated. You add in doctor appointments, treatment, side effects, anxiety & depression, and difficult conversations on top of work, parenting, bills, etc. Asking your friend what you can do puts yet another to-do on their list. 

People have trouble asking for help. They don’t want to be a burden, and in some ways, they probably think they have to do it all alone, that cancer is their cross to bear alone. If you leave it up to them to have to tell you what to do, 9 times out of 10, they won’t have either the energy or the courage to tell you. 

So don’t ask. Instead, act

1.    Deliver a hot meal. If you don’t live close by, order from your friend’s favorite delivery place or schedule a week of meal deliveries via Freshly. (Remember, your friend may not be up for eating while on chemo, but taking off the pressure of cooking dinner for their family is huge.)
2.    Set up a meal train for them.
3.    Clean their home. 
4.    Leave flowers, hot coffee, and a favorite book or magazine on their door step. 
5.    Take their kids out for a fun evening (aka, give your friend time for a bath or nap in peace).
6.    Send a gift certificate for everyday things, like gas or groceries.  Pay for their Netflix or cable. How about a little freedom for those who can't or don't drive with an Uber gift card?

Finally, just being there for your friend is huge. Fighting cancer is lonely, and some people have a way of disappearing when their friend or loved one is diagnosed, especially when cancer becomes a chronic condition. Some friends are great when the emergency is new, but as we know, fighting cancer is a long-term gig. Show your friend you are staying put. Show up and listen. Better yet, talk about your life. Treat your friend like they're still your friend, no matter what. 

Words by April Johnson Stearns, Founder, Editor & Survivor behind WILDFIRE Magazine, a magazine specifically for young survivors and fighters of breast cancer. Get the current issue here.