In our monthly column, senior writer and editor Adriana Ermter shares her personal experiences with breast cancer.
By Adriana Ermter
I finally caught up on my television viewing and watched the Friends Reunion show and the first two episodes of And Just Like That… Through the nostalgia, out-loud belly laughs and floods of tears (there were tons of each), one thought dominated: this is what support looks like. Sure, it was just TV, but if I could feel the connection and love through my 29-inch screen, then so can other people. I’m pretty sure that’s why these shows resonate. Support is survival. I need it and you do too, especially when you’re living with cancer, overcoming it, in the healing process, in remission or even know someone going through breast cancer. Asking for what you need though can be tough. We’re hardwired to put on a brave face or listen to whatever other crap messaging we tell ourselves we need to do. And it’s never worth it. So instead of being an island, try one or all of these suggestions to give and to get the support you deserve.
- Premade meals
I always say: my favourite food is food that other people make. This was never truer than during my first year of breast cancer. The week after I had my surgery, a ton of friends popped by with homemade meals. My sister Alida, who was staying with me at the time, also filled my freezer with healthy soups. During the weeks that followed, throughout my treatment and afterwards, as I struggled to regain my memory, energy and health, one of my besties killed it with the food brigade by stopping by at least twice a week with a precooked meal. At the time, she worked for a company that catered a bi-weekly staff lunch and when everyone was finished eating, she would gather up the leftovers and bring them to me. Having these meals meant I didn’t have to go to the grocery store or cook. I could just come home from work, heat something up, eat and go to bed. It was heaven. Everyone needs and can be a friend like that.
- Appointment buddies
Fact, when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer your calendar is immediately filled with what feels like a bazillion doctor appointments. I honestly thought I could and would handle all of mine alone. I mean, come on, I wasn’t going to ask my friends to take time off work to just sit in a waiting room for me. Except that they often did, even when I was adamant that I didn’t need the help. Many times, Peter, one of my nearest and dearest, would just show up outside the hospital with a coffee in each hand as he accompanied me to my daily radiation appointment. He’d read a book or grade papers while he sat and waited. Sometimes we’d talk and other times we’d just sit quietly. At the end of each treatment, we’d hug before we’d walk away in separate directions, although on occasion, Peter would take a quick scan of my face before putting me into an Uber instead. I know I could’ve managed every appointment alone, but why? Having a kind person sitting beside you and then waiting for you makes the process feel so much less isolating.
- Rockstar treatment
A month or so after my treatment had wrapped up I attended my close friend Nancy’s husband’s birthday bash. Just blow drying my hair and putting on makeup and a dress made me feel like my body was made of soggy noodles, so I had no idea how long I’d last at the event or even, if it was a good idea to attend. But I was tired of my four walls and desperate to do something that felt normal. When I entered the room where the party was being held, Nancy and her mom rushed over, hugging and fussing over me. Not in the you-have-cancer way I was used to but in excited voices that overflowed with happiness to see me. Then, Nancy took me by the arm and led me around the room, introducing me to people, getting me a drink, and generally treating me like a rockstar. It was awesome and the boost I needed. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how scared I was to re-enter my life, to go out and feel celebratory. Nancy gave me permission to embrace and be present in a good and positive moment and it did wonders for my soul.
I know that none of my suggestions are rocket science, but they work. At least they did for me, and they’re easy ways to ask for support from your family and friends. They’re also simple acts of kindness that you too can pass on to another women during her breast cancer journey. All you have to do to begin is want to try.
Adriana Ermter is a multi award-winning writer and editor. Her work can be read in Figure Skater Fitness and IN Magazine, as well as online at 29Secrets.com, RethinkBreastCancer.ca, Popsugar.com and AmongMen.com. The former Beauty Director for FASHION and Editor-in-Chief for Salon and Childview magazines lives in Toronto with her two very spoiled rescue kittens, Murphy and Olive. You can follow Adriana on Instagram @AdrianaErmter