Health

How to Deal With Me Having Breast Cancer

When in doubt, just hold my hand and be quiet with me

Illustration by Maura Condrick

Tell me it really sucks that this is happening to me, and ask me how I'm doing.

Assume I'm just trying to make you feel better about how terrible this all is if I say I'm fine.

Ask me if I need anything, then ask me again. Follow through if I actually do ask for help. Know that the asking part is extremely difficult and that as crazy as it sounds, I feel a little guilty for putting you through this.

Send me a dumb card in the mail. Make sure it has a winged rainbow kitten or some form of Chris Farley's likeness on it. Get bonus points if it's Farley as a Chippendale dancer, Matt Foley or the Lunch Lady.

Dissect every page of those celebrity tabloid magazines with me in the waiting room at my oncologist's office, as if Zooey Deschanel's red carpet look for the Golden Globes is the most important thing in the world. Distract me while my nurse hooks me up to the chemo pole. Make a stripper pole joke as soon as she's finished.

Try as hard as you can to never, ever Google anything about my diagnosis because I already have doctors who went through years of schooling for that, and I'm pretty sure they've got me covered. Accept that no matter what you read when you inevitably Google my diagnosis, chocolate is critical to my recovery.

Listen when I tell you I don't feel up for a visit. Trust me when I say that nausea is the least of my worries after chemo, and you don't want to know what I mean by that.

Let me sleep through as much of this whole ordeal as I can.

Allow me to wallow once in a while, then join me. Use bribery in the form of hand-delivered homemade mac and cheese to get me out of "I feel sorry for myself" mode.

Take my treatment just like I am, day by day and hour by hour, because looking any further ahead makes it all way too daunting.

Understand that even though I'm aware on some cosmic level that what doesn't kill me might make me stronger, I'd much rather be a non-cancer-having weakling.

Be advised that anyone who quotes Oprah or Deepak Chopra to me at any point during my treatment will be slapped in the mouth. Please also be advised: This does not apply to anyone who is, in fact, Oprah or Deepak Chopra.

Get that friend of yours who knows a guy to make me some "special brownies."

Bear with me when I get a little weaker and a little more fed up each day of my treatment. Be patient when I don't snap back to normal as soon as it's over. Make peace with the fact that as long as I'm above ground, it's never totally over. Embrace my new goal of just being okay, because whatever normal is I'll never be it again.

Take five minutes to try and make sense of this whole cancer thing, then let it go, because it just doesn't make sense and it never will.

Read all the Internet articles about how someone in an ashram is curing their cancer with kale juice, meditation and magnets. Send me a link to a video of a baby elephant swimming in the ocean for the first time instead.

Make a list of all the probing medical questions you want to ask me, then ask Jeeves.

Laugh when I make morbid cancer jokes, like saying: "It's not NOT a tumor," in an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent.

Say my head is beautifully shaped and that I have a certain Sinead O'Connor thing going for me when I'm bald. Tell me I look younger with no eyelashes, but admit that it's pretty weird when even my eyebrows disappear.

Help me pick out my new breast implants.

Forgive me if I don't act like myself: I just picked out breast implants.

When I call you at weird hours, pick up. Give me a pass if I don't always pick up when you call, or when I don't call you back right away. Text me three emoji in a row—an eyeball, a candy heart and a sheep—and I will text you back no matter how shitty I feel because eye love ewe too.

Be aware that it's all difficult, every single part of this, but the hardest part could very well be right now, in this moment.

Cut yourself some slack if you don't know what to say, or what to do. Cut me some slack if I don't either.

When in doubt, hold my hand and be quiet with me.

If you run out of ideas, start over again from the top:

Tell me it really sucks that this is happening to me, and ask me how I'm doing.

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