Ten Tips for Helping a Friend with Breast Cancer | Advice from Stacy Randall

Ten Tips for Helping a Friend with Breast Cancer | Advice from Stacy Randall

Helping Friends with Breast CancerCancer is a word, not a sentence.  ~John Diamond

Girlfriendology was founded partly because of two girlfriends dealing with cancer. I needed to be around my friends – not just them but my other female friends. I needed them for comfort and support. I knew that women do that – and we should celebrate girlfriendship.

Cancer is way too common. It happens to ourselves and our friends and family, WAY too frequently. As women, we want to take care of others and sometimes aren’t sure what to do. Guest blogger STACY RANDALL shares her insight into Ten Tips for Helping a Friend with Breast Cancer:

Finding out that a friend has breast cancer can be one of the hardest things in life. After the initial feelings of fear, confusion, and anger, you’re probably going to wonder how you can help. And although there’s no formula for how to act or what to do when you find out a friend has cancer, here are a few suggestions:

1. Don’t Compare
Although you might think it’s comforting to tell your friend about someone else you know who survived cancer, you might come across as insensitive. Your friend’s situation is very unique so don’t take that away from her.

2. Keep the Gossip on the DL (Down Low)
This one may sound obvious but if your friend is telling you about what she’s going through, don’t automatically think she’s telling everyone that information.

3. Say Anything
Sometimes when you are at a complete loss for words a simple, “I’m praying for you,” or “I’m thinking about you,” goes a long way.

4. Bring Flowers
Flowers can brighten your friend’s day. And sometimes cancer patients can lose their apatite so food isn’t always the best option.

5. Make Crafts
Depending on what stage of cancer your friend is in, making crafts together is a low key activity you can both enjoy. If she’s not up for it, making her something special will help you get your mind off what’s going on and make you feel better that you’re small gesture will brighten her day (because it will).

6. Water her Plants and Feed her Fish
Simply saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help,” is too vague and winds up being unhelpful. Take the initiative by mowing her lawn, doing her laundry, watering her plans, and even feeding her goldfish.

7. Make her Laugh
Your friend will look to you to give her the funny details of life outside the hospital. If you’re not much of story teller, show her a funny e-mail, YouTube video, or card.

8. Give Distance
When your friend says she needs time to be alone, respect her. It’s nothing personal and it’s not a cry for attention either. She simply needs alone time, like we all do.

9. Take Care of yourself
Dealing with your own emotions and feelings in a healthy way will help you be the rock that she needs.

10. Shave your head
Shave your head to show support for your friend. Just like her hair will grow back so will yours.

helping a friend with breast cancerIn addition to being a great friend by supporting your friend who has breast cancer, you can also help raise awareness and help raise money to cure breast cancer every October (or year round for that matter). Participate in walks, fashion shows, marathons, pink ribbons or do any other outward act you want to support breast cancer.

STACY RANDALL is a writer for the Nebraska Medical Center. She enjoys writing on topics in the health field. The Nebraska Medical Center is the largest healthcare facility in Nebraska and is known for its cancer (leukemia, lymphoma, etc.) and heart treatment units as well as being the designated trauma unit three days a week.

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What are your tips for supporting a girlfriend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Girlfriendology cancer quote, friendship quotesFor more girlfriend advice on dealing with cancer, see:

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A Gratitude Garden? Thankful for Spring and Friends | #ThankfulThurs

Gratitude-Garden-Thankful-ThursdayA garden requires patient labor & attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.

Liberty Hyde Bailey

I made a trip to the local big box home and garden store last weekend. So did about a million other people.

It would seem that everyone knew that April is National Gardening Month – no coincidence its timing in regards to spring. Where I live the daffodils are already up, the hastas are breaking through and the tulips can’t be far behind. Time to get to work.

I love perennials. Returning faithfully each year, they are the surest sign of spring I know, other than spotting the first robin in my yard. They’re always there for me. Something I can depend upon. I also love annuals; one trip – well, several – to the home and garden store and my home’s springtime wardrobe is complete.

I read somewhere that research shows that nurturing plants has a healthful benefit for us, mind, spirit and body. You can see it throughout your neighborhood, your town, your city. I’m sure the figures for the money we spend on this springtime rebirth are enormous, and in my opinion it is money well spent.

It’s no surprise that many, many literary parallels have been drawn between gardening and personal relationships. Especially in this season of rebirth and growth and blooming, it becomes an especially good time to tend to our own friendship gardens.

There are the perennials – long time, steady friends that you know will always be there, even if they are out of sight for long periods of time.

Then there are the shorter-term friendships you make through book clubs and kids events and other activities. These are the friendships that can brighten your day on a day to day basis. And while these friendship may not be as deeply rooted as those of your perennials, there is no question that they need to be nurtured and cared for as much, if not more than the long time friendships.

In any event, good friendships, like good gardens, take time and effort on your part to grow into something that you can truly enjoy. When you work at cultivating your friendships through a kind word, a helping hand (perhaps working with them in their garden) you are working toward a time when you can just sit in your garden, relax, and enjoy your surroundings.

Think of your friendships as a garden that you are solely responsible for. At some point, you planted the seeds and did the things you needed to do to make things grow. Planning and organizing is important, doing things in a timely fashion with a purpose in mind always yields a more attractive relationship both with plants and girlfriends.

Still, even the very best and visually beautiful garden may have some weeds. Weeding is simply part of the process, and that which does not make your garden healthier, more vital and more attractive should be directly addressed.

So where does the idea of “thanks” come into all of this? I’d say the easiest thanks of all would be to thank nature for each year, without fail, reminding us of the importance intending to our growth and the growth of our friendships. And thanks for having a store where we can get the plants we need already well on their way.

Sometime this week, spend a few minutes with your gratitude journal and write down the friendships you are thankful for, both old and new. Maybe describe your friends and your friendships in gardening terms. Give them nicknames like Rose, and Fern and Daisy. Remind yourself to cultivate and if necessary, pull a few weeds from your garden. It all goes toward making your friendship garden stronger and more beautiful, something that you and your girlfriends can find joy in.

So dig into your friendships. Get your hands dirty girlfriends. It will all be well worth the effort.

 

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Traveling with Friends | Girlfriend Getaway Advice from Maire Hunter

Traveling with Friends | Girlfriend Getaway Advice from Maire Hunter

Girlfriendology i love traveling, friendship quote“I love traveling with a friend and seeing places through her eyes too.” –Girlfriendology

Traveling with a girlfriend has all sorts of advantages. You have someone to play with, someone to watch the luggage while you take turns using the restroom, and (best of all) you get to spend time with a really great gal.

Guest blogger MAIRE HUNTER reminds us that a little bit of planning can make a vacation with a gal pal even better than you thought it could be! (Happy traveling, girlfriend!)

Vacations are a wonderful experience that many people enjoy. Vacationers take a wide variety of excursions and road trips to amusement parks, historic sites, different states, and sometimes different countries. About 58 percent of vacationers travel with their romantic partners, while 22 percent bring along family members or friends. Traveling with your girlfriends can be an unforgettable experience that you will talk about for years to come. However, to get the full enjoyment out of the trip, you have to plan it properly. Here are tips and advice for traveling with friends.

traveling with friends,girlfriend advicePreparing for the Trip

To have a successful trip, you have to prepare. Take the time out to write down everything you will need so that you will not forget something important.

  • Decide on a budget before you leave.
  • Write down the activities you plan to partake in and how much each activity costs. Factor in money for fuel, meals, hotel stays, souvenirs, and anything else you decide to spend money on.
  • You may want to consider travel health insurance in case you fall ill, and you will also need to obtain some type of auto insurance if you will be driving.

Pack your belongings as compactly as you can. Make sure you have enough clothing and personal items to last you the duration of the trip. Additionally, you should bring printed maps and have a fully charged GPS system on hand. Pack extra car chargers so you’re not stuck without communication.

On The Road

Once you get on the road, you have to make every effort to remain safe and stay on a steady path to your destination. Change drivers every few hours so the other drivers can get rest. Assign one person to map duty while the other drives.

Plan bathroom and food stops every four to five hours (NOTE: At Girlfriendology, we need to stop for potty breaks and coffee refills much more often!) Perform exercises with your travel mates during breaks to stay loose and relaxed. Listen to music, share stories, and talk about things that you have seen thus far in your travels. This is a great time to deepen existing friendships as you create memories together.

Mission Accomplished

Once you get to your destination, take it easy the first night. The next morning, bright and early, begin exploring the area. You can explore together or separately if you all have different plans and desires. Just be sure to coordinate a meeting place and stay in contact with your travel partners in case anyone’s plans change.

traveling with friends, towel artWhen exploring, remember the adage that there is safety in numbers, particularly if you are exploring an unfamiliar area. Not only will this deter potential criminals, it may even open up new adventures that you may have otherwise been unable (or unwilling) to do by yourself.

Traveling with friends can be a lot of fun if you take the right steps. Not only will you create new memories with some of the most important people in your life, you may even begin a tradition that will give you something to look forward to all year. So what’s stopping you? Get on the phone with your girlfriends and start planning!

MAIRE HUNTER loves to write, travel, and walk her Scottish Terrier, Pete.

What are your tips for traveling with girlfriends?

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Helping a Girlfriend Deal with a Terminal Illness

Helping a Girlfriend Deal with a Terminal Illness

How to be a Friend to a Girlfriend with a Terminal Illness

Learning that a girlfriend has a terminal disease can be a devastating experience. In this beautiful and insightful blog, Kathlene Mullens shares her experience and tips for dealing with an ill friend.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  And boy, am I aware.  The issue of which I am aware, though, is of a girlfriend with a terminal illness that is not cancer.  Which disease she has is not important but nobody wants to hear that a loved one has a condition you’ve only heard of on House.  Her prognosis is sketchy beyond being horrible—nobody can tell her an expected timeframe for what “terminal” means for her.  But she cannot have kids.  Her mental and physical health will deteriorate in ways that are painful for her and for me to observe and contemplate.  In all likelihood, I will attend my friend’s funeral.

What do you do when a girlfriend comes to you with this news?  The answer is different for every girlfriend and every situation.  I can only share, with honesty and humility, how my girlfriend and I have handled it, and continue to handle it.

Know the stages of grief.  My favorite explanation is a cartoon giraffe in quicksand that illustrates the whole grieving process, which can take years, in under two minutes.  You’ll need to know the stages of grief to better understand your girlfriend, but also yourself.  As the girlfriend of someone with a terminal illness, you’ll have your own grief to which you must attend. Comprehension of the stages and their absolute normalcy will help you both.

Research. Knowledge is power, as our Schoolhouse Rock days taught us. As your girlfriend goes through her illness and decisions around it, you’ll be a more valuable friend if you know about the disease/condition, its prognosis and treatments, and ways loved ones can help.

Be realistic. In an effort to be supportive and positive, most people will adopt a focused “you’ll whip this, slugger” attitude towards your friend that in some ways denies her an opportunity to share the realities of what may be happening.  Being diagnosed with a terminal illness should color some of your life’s decisions and realities. There are challenges and issues that must be addressed. Refusing to acknowledge these is no help to your friend and will inhibit her in being able to confront her fears and disappointments and to take care of business that needs to be buttoned up.

Having said that, be supportive of treatments.  If my friend wanted to go to a faith healer tomorrow, I’d load up and go with her.  I am supportive of mainstream and alternative treatments that she wishes to try and talk over many of them with her, and have done enough research on her condition to be able to provide some intelligent feedback.  I believe in miracles.  My mantra is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Accommodate the changes she’s going through to make life as “normal” as possible.  My friend, for example, has more trouble getting around and driving. When possible, we walk on pavement instead of hiking trails.  I drive a lot more than I used to when we are together—and more than half the time.  These are small tweaks that allow us to maintain the normalcy that we’ve enjoyed for so long.

Help her plan. Legal documents like wills, living wills, and other directives, funeral arrangements, care plans, and anything else that she needs your advice on—help her work through these.

Be honest about your emotions. She’s your friend—she needs to know how you’re doing with all of this and that you care about her. You will cry with her and for her.  This is okay.  It’s part of loving someone.

Don’t act like she has an “expiration date.” We don’t know when my friend is going to die.  We don’t know for sure that I won’t go first through some twist of fate. But we are not spending our waning days of life together in mourning.  More than ever, life and health is a precious resource not to be wasted. But we still make plans and talk about the future as if it will happen because, as far as we know, she’ll be around for a while.

Be prepared for Beaches to tear you up ever more than it used to.  The reason that movie is so powerful is how honestly it deals with friendship and death.

Laugh as much as possible. Find the humor and bright sides where you can and help her see them as well.  CC and Hillary showed us how in Beaches.

Should you find yourself in the unfortunate role of girlfriend to a girlfriend with a terminal illness, hopefully these tips help you both.  Remember, though—this is what’s worked for us.  Every friendship and every illness and every woman is unique—be honest, act in love, acquire knowledge, have hope and be pragmatic. The rest will work itself out. Peace be with you both.travel advice girlfriends terminal illness

KATHLENE MULLENS, MLHR, SPHR is the founder and CEO of Female Equality MattersTM, The “No Glass Ceiling” Certification/Brand©. With over a decade of HR experience in four Fortune 100 companies, as well as a master’s and senior certification in the discipline, Kathlene is using that expertise in diversity, recruiting, line HR, employee development, and technology to help leverage the power of consumer spending to yield more women, with more equitable pay, in the C-suite and board rooms. Check out Kathleen on Facebook and Twitter.

What other situations between friends are difficult? Let’s share our girlfriend advice for those. Thanks! & THANKS Kathlene!

As Kathlene mentioned – October is International Breast Cancer Awareness month. Here’s inspiration you don’t want to miss:

More girlfriend advice for tough situations …

That’s why we’re here – to inspire you to BE A BETTER FRIEND – even, and especially, when life hands you or a girlfriend tough situations.

COMFORTING GIFTS FOR FRIENDS: HEALING BASKETS provides gifts to comfort and support the broken hearted. From sympathy, and loss to cancer, get well, divorce and caregiving. These gifts encourage, comfort and inspire.

What other tough situations would you like us to cover on Girlfriendology? PLEASE SHARE below!

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5 ways to be Happier | Women & Happiness

5 ways to be Happier | Women & Happiness

happier,happiness,friendshipA good friend wants you to be happy. Right? A best friend will do whatever it takes to make sure you’re happy. Life is about happiness, right? Thankfully our girlfriends care about our happiness.

A World Happiness Database study found that people with close friendships are happier.

That’s why, as a girlfriend, we want our friends to be HAPPY. Here’s our 5 ways to be Happier:

  1. Do what you love. I was raised by an artist mom and I’m creative. I know that I need to find creative outlets in my life to be happy. What makes YOU happy? What do YOU love? As a girlfriend, I want you to go after your dreams – to be happy in what you do with your life. So, please … do what YOU love!
  2. Spend time with people you love. Life is way too short to spend time with people who don’t love and value you as much as you deserve. Our time is limited and we get to choose the way we spend our time. Busy? Doesn’t matter. Time is limited. Spend it with the best people you know – the friends that honestly love and care about you. (Want to know how to find time for your friends? Check it out!)
  3. Make others happy. It’s a funny thing – but making others happy actually makes us even more happy. Do a favor for a friend. Make her feel special – make her life easier. Give a thoughtful, perfect gift. Remember to ask about her day, job review, doctor appointment. Make it about her, not you. Do the little things that make her happy. I guarantee you, you’ll be happy too.
  4. Appreciate the real things. It’s not the monetary, big things that matter – it’s the friends who were there for us, the little things that make us feel special. It’s also the sunset, laughter from a child, wag of a dog’s tail, shoe sale, the comfort of a hand to hold whenever you need them. It’s the little things. Be thankful. That will make you happy, and that’s a very good thing.
  5. Be happy with you. Girlfriend, you are perfect. You are enough. You have everything in you that you need. You are loved by your friends. Your friends don’t see any wrinkles or weaknesses, gray hairs or flaws. Please know that you are loved just the way you are. Your girlfriends see all the beauty and the gifts that you possess. Your true friends want you to see what they see – that you are perfect just the way you are.

Girlfriends – your friends – me included – want YOU to be HAPPY.

What’s your advice for happiness? What do you wish you or your girlfriends were reminded to be happy about? Please share.

For more on happiness, check out these books 🙂

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For even more Happiness 🙂

 

Losing Your Best Friend – The Unthinkable loss of Friendship

Losing Your Best Friend – The Unthinkable loss of Friendship

Girlfriendology it is a good thing, friendship quoteThere are some friendship topics that are easy to think about, talk about, write about. And then there are friendship topics that are much more difficult.

Guest blogger DR. KAREN GAIL LEWIS helps us address one of the most difficult–losing a friend.

Best friends are so vital to our lives, yet we rarely talk about what it’s like when we lose them. We can lose them through death, but also through what I refer to as divorce. Divorce is when a good friend just drops you, a permanent falling out.

Losing a lover through death or divorce fits within our society’s understanding of loss and grief. But, unfortunately, we have no recognized guidelines for losing friends—the people who may outlive relationships with spouses and lovers.

“Linda and I have always had a long distance relationship,” explains Carla. “We talk at least once a week, sometimes more often. She’s on the West Coast and I’m here in Cincinnati, so we are always working on the time change. It takes some effort, but we’ve been doing this for the 11 years since she moved to Seattle. We make a point of getting together three or four times a year. I love my husband, but loving Linda is a different kind of love.

“She was the first person I called when Terry asked me to marry him, even before I called my mom and sister. Whenever he and I are at odds, she is always there to listen to me vent about Terry, to help me see the situation more realistically, and to walk me through the mess with him.

“We used to joke what would we do without each other.”

Carla’s voice breaks. She takes a deep breath as if gulping in the air would ease her pain. “I guess I’m finding out. Six months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a quick decline. She was dead within three months.

“What makes me so mad is that if it were Terry who had died, I’d get time off from work; my friends would be calling on me, offering me sympathy. But Linda is ‘just a friend.’ Baloney. She’s my best friend, my soul, my stabilizer, my special another half, in a way Terry – as much as I love him – can’t be. But she’s just my friend, so life expects me to carry on.”

We live in a world with rigid ideas about love and affection. We have worked place rules and social etiquette rules. The inflexibility of these rules, though, ignores some realities. Carla would be able to get time off from work, or a reduced price plane ticket, for the funeral of her sister, even though they haven’t spoken in decades, but not for her best friend Linda.

In many communities, when there’s a death, friends and neighbors come with the proverbial casseroles and pies. The bereaved gets company, food, sympathy. Carla, though, did not have any of that. Most people don’t think about the depth of the loss when it is a non-family member.

“My boss did let me take the day off to go to her funeral, but he sure didn’t understand why I was so unproductive for the next few weeks. If it had been my husband, he certainly would have understood. How do I explain losing a best friend is like losing a part of myself?”

Chances are Carla’s boss has had a similar experience—because losing a best friend is so common; it’s just not often acknowledged, and the pain is rarely discussed.

The same lack of social understanding occurs when best friends have a permanent quarrel—or divorce.

“Mary just dropped me; I don’t know any other way to put it,” bemoans Laurie. “Although this was 10 years ago, I still get teary thinking about it. I have no idea why she just stopped talking to me, stopped returning my calls. We had been such good friends for years. After several months, I wrote her saying she, at least, owed me an explanation. Boy, that was a mistake. She wrote back tearing me to pieces.”

Laurie’s eyes water as she goes back a decade in her memory. “I don’t know what was worse. Hearing all the things she didn’t like about me or having no one to talk to about losing my best friend. You know, if Laurie were a Larry, everyone would understand why I moped around for months, but you don’t get sympathy for breaking up with your best friend.”

Carla and Laurie understand the power of best friends—having them and losing them. There are rituals for dealing with the death of a spouse and a family member, but there are none for the death of a best friend. People know how to respond if a friend gets divorced, but they have no idea how to respond if that friend gets divorced from a best friend – even though the pain can be just as intense and the loss just as big.

Moving the Invisible Elephant in your Life

With Barbara Baxter, ventriloquist, as we are doing a presentation at the zoo, on “Moving Your Invisible Elephant: Overcoming Obstacles in your life.” I’m the short one in the front row; my girlfriend, Barbara, is the one with the Ant (a direct descendent of the Ant who moved a Rubber Tree plant– speaking of overcoming obstacles!

There are other ways of losing a close friend. You can grow in different directions; after a marital divorce, friends may drift away, not wanting to choose sides. You can move and get so caught up in your new life, or work so much your friendships get left behind. And, too many women slip away from friends after an argument, rather than insist the friendship deserves their “fighting it out.”

No matter how you lose a best friend, it always hurts and leaves a hole in your life. The loss needs to be respected and given the same credence as the loss of any loved one.

So, if you know a friend who has had such a loss, reach out, speak up. Allow her to talk about the pain. Encourage her to share with you. You might even ask her boss to cut her some slack.

And if you are the one who has experienced the loss, don’t be shy. While there is no way to avoid the pain, there is something you can do that is a major step in healing. Talk to others about your friend; share your memories, look back over pictures, tell stories. Tell others what you need. If you don’t, they won’t know how much you hurt, regardless how the friendship ended. And, in the sharing, you may begin to forge a new friendship.

A final note: Some women are afraid to acknowledge how angry they are at their friend for leaving them. Don’t be. She may have had no control over dying, but she has left you. Your love for her demands you be angry at her not being there for you. That is an expression of your love.Losing Your Best Friend, Girlfriend Advice

DR. KAREN GAIL LEWIS has 42 years’ experience as a family therapy, with a specialization in friendships, single women, and adult siblings. She is the author of numerous books on relationships, including Why Don’t You Understand? A Gender Relationship Dictionary. In addition, for 17 years, she has run Unique Retreats For Women – with specific retreats for single women and adult siblings. She has offices in Cincinnati and Washington, DC, and provides telephone consultations.

Thanks for the great advice, Karen!

 

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For more on how to be a friend when a friend is going through a Tough Situation …

That’s why we’re here – to inspire you to BE A BETTER FRIEND – even, and especially, when life hands you or a girlfriend tough situations.

COMFORTING GIFTS FOR FRIENDS: HEALING BASKETS provides gifts to comfort and support the broken hearted. From sympathy, and loss to cancer, get well, divorce and caregiving. These gifts encourage, comfort and inspire.

What other tough situations would you like us to cover on Girlfriendology? PLEASE SHARE below!

A Free Resource Library of Great Girlfriend Advice?!

  • Celebration Ideas & checklists
  • Friendly Financial Advice
  • Tempting Travel tips
  • FREE eBooks
  • Coloring book pages
  • Quotes to share with Friends 
Female Friend
Girlfriendology Girlfriend Gift Finder

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  • Holiday Gifts - Christmas Gifts, Mother's Day Gifts, Valentine's Day Gifts
  • Cheer up Gifts, Sympathy Gifts, Just Because Gifts, Congrats, Housewarming, Hostess Gifts & More!

<------- What's NEW in the Free Resource Library?

  • 150 Friendship Quotes
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  • 2 Inspirational Quote Coloring Book Pages
  • JUST ADDED: Tips to make Grocery Shopping Easier
  • Girlfriend Trip Beach Recommendations
  • Money-saving Tips & Sites
  • & more!!