by Mare Kirschenbaum

June 4, 2001

Unless a person has cancer (any kind) one can not even imagine how horrendous this emotional roller coaster is and even when things get better the roller coaster continues. Being a non-ibc person, I feel I can relate to this because my mother unfortunately died of breast cancer and I have a daughter who has ibc.

My daughter’s closest friend disappeared to who-knows-where when Karen was first diagnosed with ibc. Her friend just couldn’t handle any of it, didn’t know what to do or say and took care of it the only way she knew how to and that was to cut her off! Other people that she never expected to be supportive were there all the time.

My closest friend on the day of Karen’s mastectomy worked that day and it broke my heart. I would have taken the day off without question for her had it been her daughter … this has been resolved since with my friend explaining she just couldn’t accept it and went into her own denial that my precious Karen had been diagnosed with this horrendous disease and was now having her breast removed.

Years ago when I paid a condolence call to a family member of my husband’s, I walked in the house and never even went up to his cousin to say how sorry I was about her father passing away. Yes, I was young and so very naive, not knowing what to do or say … I chose to do nothing! I look back at that time with great sorrow.

Unless someone has gone through something, whether it be an illness or death, some people just don’t know what to do. The amazing part of all of this is people who do enter your lives at this difficult time are people you don’t expect to be in your life and are there with full support and love.

That is the wonderful part of a support group, whether it’s online or face-to-face. These are people that do understand exactly how you are feeling and what you are going through and are so very able to relate.

As difficult as it is sometimes we HAVE to let people know what WE need and then of course the rest is up to them. Just meeting once a week or asking them to drive you to get your chemo … that in itself I know is major. When people would ask “What can I do?” regarding my daughter when she was first diagnosed, I told them sending cards just saying “thinking of you” is so very appreciated. I remember when a friend send me a box of my favorite candy with a card saying, “Cheer up candies for my friend.”

I know of a few people who never told people they had cancer because they didn’t want them to look at them differently and although that is not the route I would choose, after hearing some stories can well understand where they are coming from.

You say your friend might have ibc … I hope not but if she does the support community here will always be here for her.