I think the one thing that has been hardest on me is how the men in my life have handled this.
First of all, let me state this is not all the men.
My husband has been über fabulous; he has been there for me and has been a solid rock and really been wonderful and supportive and asked questions and made me feel like he is in this with me 100%.
It is the other ones.
Like My Boys – sigh.
I mentioned the one that talked about himself after I shared the news… though he has sent a note back in which he sorta says one brief little thing and proceeds to write about himself for three or so long paragraphs (that is how he is). Another, that found out through his wife, sent a note to my husband saying that he knew. For those two, it was perfect. It fit their personalities and I am so glad.
I did share with the other boys, and nothing. I am hoping that they might be out of town for a very long time or too shocked at the news and feel kind of helpless and not know what to say or even do. I mean there is something so very personal about talking about your lady parts with a man, I imagine it might be embarrassing or something along that fine continuum for a man to talk about a female friends girly parts in such a deeply personal way… even if you never utter the words cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina.
The other three male friends that I have told have been able to reply. One with a sweet message and encouragement and stories of how his mother has gone through something similar. Amazingly supportive and wonderful. Another apologized about what I am going through and then turned into a lump that seems to want me to take care of him. The last proceeded to offer a bunch of medical advice based on his experience with his mother and her ovarian cancer.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for a male, to hear from a friend that her girly bits have failed her in such a dramatic way. I am sure that saying “I am sorry that your cervix is going through that” just seem too ridiculous for a male.
So, if you are a male and you have a friend (or loved one) who has been diagnosed with a reproductive cancer (or any cancer) here is some advice based on what I have learned so far;
- If she tells you, respond. Even if you just say: I am so sorry you are going through this. I don’t really know how to respond, but I am here if you need me. Repeat this on occasion if you are still speechless.
- Prepare yourself, think about times when you have been scared, or ill, or going through a difficult time. What did you want to talk about? What did you need? Consider your friends personality; is she forthright or private and talk to her.
- Tell her you are sad that she has to go through this, acknowledge what she is going through.
- If possible, invite her to lunch or dinner or breakfast or brunch, and listen to her if she accepts (and let her know it is ok to say no). Ask her if she needs a hug, and talk to her about things you know interest her; books, plays, etc. Reminisce the old times, make her laugh at how silly you both were when you were younger if your friendship has lasted decades.
- Don’t continuously pick up and stare at your phone or allow other distractions when you talk to her, especially if she is talking about what she is going through.
- Let her know you are interested in her health, and are willing to help. If she is alone, ask if she needs help putting in light-bulbs or other small house projects. If she is married or living with someone and you know them, ask if you should take her partner out and get his mind of things. If you offer, and she accepts. Follow through.
- Be honest about your feelings.
- If you have a history of doing things together, plan something she can look forward to.
- If you have shared friends, ask if she would like you to let them know. Respect her answer.
- Try not to offer medical advice. Don’t send her information on protocols and options don’t be upset when she makes decisions that you find odd or extreme or even not extreme enough.
- Most importantly, continue the friendship… knowing there is a support system out there for her is incredibly important (even if she doesn’t take you up on the offer)
I hope that I have given some pointers that are helpful.
These are ideas based on my experience so far. I am sure that there is some variety among women who are going through this and I am sure that Google probably has far better advice available if you search.