A few months ago, a very close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she’s a single woman with no partner, and because she is in the same health system as I am, I offered to be whatever help I could be, including going with her to some appointments and explaining a lot of how the treatment process is going to work. I was able to tell her that at her first clinic appointment, she would be meeting three doctors and that she was going to be offered a treatment plan and would likely be making some decisions that day.
I am more than happy to help. I know firsthand just how important it is to have someone by your side, and being a resource for her to ask questions of has, I think, made things easier for her. In some ways it’s weird for me, though. I’m sitting in the same waiting rooms as I did before, but I have to make sure that it’s all about her. We are good enough friends that I’m able to say to her that she is in full control: I’m happy to do the things with her that she wants me to, and I understand perfectly if she wants to do parts of it without me. Oh, and that she can tell me back the hell off at any point and I won’t be upset in any way. It seems to be working well so far.
But then I sat for hours in the surgical waiting room with her mother while she had her initial surgery. I went from sitting with her in pre-op discussing books, to sitting in the waiting room anxiously awaiting news, through to discussions with the surgeon, pushing the recovery nurse to give her more anti-nausea drugs, and getting her into the car for her ride home. And as much as it sucks going through the surgery, I now know just how much it also sucks to be the one waiting.
Supporting someone through an illness is difficult. I understand better now the fine line between being supportive and being overbearing, how much fear and concern the people in your life have that they hide from you, and how it can be a struggle to be supportive without being pushy and controlling. I’m grateful to my family and other support folks who did a great job of achieving the right balance for me.