What to Say?

By: Katie Austin 

I sat up late at night recently thinking about my friends that are fighting cancer. I read their Facebook posts and my mind wanders back to the time when I was fighting cancer. I started crying as I was reminded of the thoughtful, wonderful things that my family and friends did for me to keep me strong throughout my struggle to stay positive.

What’s crazy is that I find myself not being sure of what to say to my fellow survivors. I don’t want to say anything that might upset them in any way.

Then I remembered something. I read an article a few years ago that really helped. It was something that I wished I would have come across when I was fighting cancer. Something for me to give those close to me some insight and not to be afraid to talk about normal stuff.

I’ll provide you with a link to the article at the end but here are a few to get you started:

  • “I don’t know what to say but I’m here for you.” It’s ok not knowing what to say. Sometimes being honest about not knowing what to say keeps the conversation real/open. The person fighting cancer may not know what to say either or remember because of chemo brain…LOL.
  • “I’m here to listen.” This is always something that can be shared, as it is so reassuring to know that there is someone that can listen. Remember that they are sharing their feelings and that it will be good for them to get out any frustrations, which will help you to better understand where they are coming from.
  • “Let me help with…” This is a good one! It was always easier for me to say yes/no to something specific that someone was offering to help with rather than an open question, “What can I help with?” They may be too overwhelmed at the time and it may be too much pressure to come on with something specific on their own.
  • “How are things going with you?” or “How is your family?” Talking about things other than cancer was a relief. I wanted to just talk about normal stuff too and it was a break from the daily cancer treatments, doctor appointments, and everything else that came with it.
  • A simple text can mean the most. The littlest things do mean a lot. A simple text to say “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m praying for you” doesn’t require a response but lets that person know you care.

You can find more ideas here: https://www.whatnext.com/blog/posts/10-things-cancer-patients-love-to-hear.

Remember, that this is a journey not only for the cancer patient but for their family and friends as well. No matter what you do or say, it will help them to stay positive and they will know that you care.

Do you have an idea or quote that was helpful for your friend or family member?  If you do, post it here so that we can share with our Every Woman Blog family.

Working with Friends

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently read an enlightening article called, “How Coworkers Affect Your Job Satisfaction,” written by Jacob Shriar.

In the article, I came across an interesting bit of information about the results of a 20-year study on the work environment in all sorts of different job fields. They expected factors like long work hours or having a mean boss to be a major factor affecting a person’s health. According to the article, “What they found instead, was that the factor most closely linked to health was the support of coworkers. The meaner a colleague was, the higher their risk of dying. According to the study, middle-aged workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.”

 Wowzers! Isn’t that crazy!? This was really eye opening for me, especially since lately I have felt especially thankful for my amazing coworkers. I am truly blessed to have colleagues that are not only supportive, but many of them are like family. We’ve created a special bond that has helped us all to better survive and make the best of our job situations. I always say, if it weren’t for them, I’d never last in my position in our messed up education system. We band together and lift each other up. We always have each other’s backs. We love and care for one another. The support is real and genuine. I can’t imagine my life without these people I’ve come to know and love.

Reading this article just added scientific back-up to what I knew in my heart already: having friends at work is truly important to our mental health. Check out the article link above and take stock of your own work environment. Do you have a friend at work? Do you have a family of fabulous colleagues? It really is important and can be so beneficial to your overall health! If you’re like me and are blessed to have an incredible support system at your place of work, thank those special friends. Let them know how much you appreciate them. As they say…appreciate the good people in your life. They are hard to come by!

To my family at CMS, I positively adore you all! I’m here for you and can’t thank you enough for being there for me in return. You fill my heart and lift my soul! Big smiles and millions of thank you’s!

Friends … Forever?

By: Jeanne Reynolds

 

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One of my dearest friends had a birthday a week ago. It was on my calendar (in two places). Did I send her a card or call or email or even text?

I’m really ashamed to admit it, but no.

I could blame the hurricane and the toll it took on our home near Beaufort, my time, energy and mental capacity, but that’s just a convenient excuse. The fact is, although we worked together for years and years, ran together and even travelled some together, nowadays we rarely see each other. A few years ago she left the company where I still work, so now it takes extra effort to keep in touch. Sometimes we do better than others.

 

forever friends

This got me thinking about the effect of changing work situations on friendships. All of us have had good friends who changed jobs or moved away or just aren’t right there every day any more. This is starting to concern me more as I near retirement and wonder what other friends might gradually slip away when they’re no longer part of my 8-5 routine.

Of course, it’s great to make new friends, too, and I’m doing that as my life patterns start to change. But there’s no replacement for friends who knew you back when … and still love you anyway. If you’re lucky, you have at least a few of these in your life. Forever friends.

How will I keep in touch? I have a few ideas, and I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.

  • Always celebrate birthdays, even belatedly, even if it’s embarrassing to admit the date got away from you. OK, I just texted an invitation to my friend and she’s replying as I write. Stay tuned.
  • Meet for lunch or happy hour now and then. Include other long-lost friends and reconnect with several people at once.
  • Sign up for a race or volunteer event together.
  • Get tickets to a concert or play together.
  • Take a class or Bible study together. My church has short studies around Lent and the holidays that aren’t a big time commitment but remind me why we connected in the first place.
  • Follow each other on Instagram. I’m not a social media maven and have neither the time nor inclination for constant Facebook check-ins, but it takes seconds to post a photo on Instagram. And a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?

Now, I may find I’m the one who has to take the initiative to make these things happen. I can either let that bother me or accept it as worth the value of keeping someone wonderful in my life. If it gets to the point that it’s not, it’s time to let her (or him) fly away.

Oh, this just in: She said yes! We’re meeting for lunch tomorrow. Better late than never, especially when it comes to old (forever) friends.

Making Time for Friendship

By: Ashley Whisonant

friends

With school back in session and pumpkin everything starting to pop up, the signs are all there. Summer is coming to an end.

This summer has been filled with beach days, ice cream nights, and late-night neighborhood play sessions. With fall around the corner, I am making a promise to myself that I will make time for friendship. I tend to carve out specific time for my boys, husband, work, working out, and family. I need to do the same for my friendships as well.

Instead of the typical dinner out, I thought of a few other ideas:

  • Walking the neighborhood or Lake Murray Dam
  • Taking a cooking class together
  • Creating a jewelry swap group. Everyone brings necklaces, bracelets, etc. and then we swap!
  • Taking a cake or cookie decorating class at a local craft store
  • Strolling the outdoor market, Soda City, on a Saturday morning

I hope by making specific time for girlfriends, my soul will be rejuvenated! Any other events you would add to the list?

True Wealth…

By: Shannon Shull

I am rich. Not necessarily with money, that darn stuff that tortures us all and seems to be required to survive. No, I am rich with friendship and love. I have an incredible wealth of friends and loved ones that are here for me through thick and thin, who love me unconditionally, and care for me with all my imperfections.

best friends

When I really sit back and allow myself to think about the number of dear friends that I could call at any moment and would be there for me with an open heart, willing ears and a shoulder to cry on….whew… my heart truly swells. These friends I have do not judge me. They know that together we are human and I too will not judge them. These precious ones in my life know that the love and support is mutual.

What an incredible blessing! I mean really – to have the gift of true friendship is a priceless treasure.

Over the course of our lives, we make friends left and right, on different levels, of course, and in different circumstances. Some friends come and go due to our complicated lives getting in the way… and that’s ok. Though they may have moved on or you’ve lost touch for whatever reason, the memories will last and they’ll always have a special place in your heart.

There is a quote by Elisabeth Foley that states, “the most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” These are the friends, who best friendsfor whatever reason, you just never lose touch with, because no matter how far apart you live from one another or what opposite directions your lives may take you, you still have a bond that is so strong that no time, distance, nor circumstances can interrupt the bond that you have. Months can go by without contact and you get together and fall right into a beautiful, comfortable whirlpool of true friendship that soothes the soul, warms your heart and puts pep into your step. These are the friends that lift you up, allow you to open up, and engage in that deeper act of friendship that embodies the definition.

The Urban Dictionary states, “friendship is actually a form of love, and without such a form of love as friendship our societies would be unbearably dull and alienated from one another.” Don’t you know it!?! Can you imagine your world without friendships and without those key friends in your life who help you hold on to your sanity? I don’t want to dare imagine my life without my most precious, dear friends who are truly priceless treasures in my life.

When this blog entry posts, I will be celebrating one of my very best friend’s 40th birthday. She will have joined me in the ranks of middle age and we plan to not only celebrate turning 40 together, but we also will celebrate our friendship and the fact that it has withstood the test of time! We’ve been best friends since the 1st grade. Considering we’re entering our 40s, that’s an incredibly long time! I won’t go into all the ups and downs we’ve survived together, our many accomplishments, and our precious moments, but I will say best friendsthat we have an indescribable bond that truly upholds the definition of friendship.

 

They say you can always tell when two people are best friends because they are having more fun than it makes sense for them to be having. That is the case with my BFF. We are Shannon & Tammy…Salt & Pepper…Double Trouble…Liz & Tam…we are best friends. And I have no doubt that our friendship will last forever.

So here’s to the beauty and gift of friendships! Treasure all the friendships you have. I know I am ever thankful for them all, because they indeed make you a wealthy person. 🙂

Breast Cancer With Help From Our Friends

Patti Handel is a four-time cancer survivor.

“’Cancer’ is the scariest word in the English language,” she said. “But it’s only part of us. It doesn’t define us.

The 61-year-old from Irmo shares words of wisdom at monthly meetings of Woman to Woman, Lexington Medical Center’s support group for breast cancer survivors.

Handel started attending Woman to Woman meetings after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007, just one month after she and her husband moved to Irmo from Long Island, New York.

Patti Handel and Brenda Osteen at the West Columbia Riverwalk

Patti Handel and Brenda Osteen at the West Columbia Riverwalk

“I didn’t have a South Carolina driver’s license yet and I needed an oncologist, surgeon and other doctors. It was overwhelming.”

So, she found comfort – and new friends in a new town – at the support group, which is designed to offer companionship to women who are recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

At Woman to Woman, cancer survivors share their experiences, learn about the latest treatment options and swap tips including how pickle juice seems to help cure chemotherapy-induced nausea.

That’s where Patti met Brenda Osteen in 2010.

Brenda, age 67, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 after a mammogram. The Lexington resident endured a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstruction.

At the meetings, Patti and Brenda hit it off.

“Patti’s been where I’ve been,” Brenda said. “You can’t explain cancer to someone who hasn’t gone through it. It’s like trying to explain a migraine to someone who never had a headache.”

When you see Patti and Brenda together, you can tell they’re close. Both impeccably dressed, they laugh like college friends and share jokes and stories that make you laugh from your belly.

From trading bestsellers they’ve read to talking about their grandchildren while sipping a cocktail at a weekly dinner, they understand each other well.

“We need friends to hold hands with, laugh with and cry with,” Patti said.

Patti especially needed Brenda’s support after a cancer recurrence in her leg in 2010, and another in her abdomen and pelvis one year ago.

Brenda and Patti

Brenda and Patti

“When it came back, I was mad as a hornet,” Patti said.

Patti has had chemotherapy three times and lost her hair twice. She’s monitored every 8 weeks, with scans every three months.

Brenda has inspired Patti to stay positive.

“We get up, put on our makeup, lipstick and earrings – and head out. Life is too precious to waste,” Brenda said.

Kelly Jeffcoat, breast cancer nurse navigator at Lexington Medical Center, runs the Woman to Woman support group at the hospital. As a breast cancer survivor herself, she has a first-hand understanding of the group’s experience.

“This crazy, horrible thing called breast cancer ends up giving you these beautiful relationships,” she said.

Having a cheering section during cancer is important. Studies have shown that women with friends who support them through their cancer journey may experience better outcomes.

Patti and Brenda count Kelly as a big part of the cheering section.

“Kelly is instrumental in the treatment, care and recovery of women going through breast cancer,” Patti said. “Kelly can really say, ‘I know how you feel. I understand.’”

Patti and Brenda will attend Women’s Night Out on October 14, Lexington Medical Center’s annual dinner that recognizes October as breast cancer awareness month and honors cancer survivors and their families. More than 900 people attend each year.

The event includes a silent auction, physician exhibits, fashion show featuring models who are breast cancer survivors, dinner and a talk with keynote speaker Kate Larsen. A breast cancer survivor, Larsen will talk about the importance of friendship during cancer treatment.

For more information about Women’s Night Out or to purchase tickets, visit LexMed.com or call Lexington Medical Center Community Outreach at (803) 936-8850.

The Woman to Woman support group at Lexington Medical Center meets on the 4th Thursday of each month at 5:00 p.m. inside the Women’s Imaging lobby at 2728 Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia. That’s Lexington Medical Park 1 on the hospital campus. The support group is free and open to any woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, regardless of where she has received her treatment.

For more information about Lexington Medical Center’s cancer services, visit LexMed.com.