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A Little Help from Your Friends

by Pat Godfrey McRee

Wellness image

I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman. Helen Reddy

I get by with a little help from my friends. John Lennon

Strong, invincible women get through breast cancer with a little help from their strong, invincible friends. The friends who show up to do something, even when the only time they hear your voice for weeks is on that answering machine!

Many of us resist this kind of assistance. We’ve always been the well ones who take care of others, so the world is askew when we’re on the receiving end. I believe that God’s command for all of us is to aid our fellow travelers on this earth. If you refuse the loving gifts of your friends, you have deprived them of their very reason for being.

Author of Article photo

Pat Godfrey McRee

Give up a little control and stop saying, “I don’t know,” as they call and ask how to help. Make a list of the tasks that might need to be handled as you go through treatment. Here are some suggestions:

  • Contacting Family and Friends
    As the answering machine fills up with good wishes and offers of assistance, you feel guiltier and guiltier about not responding. Choose your most dependable friend and ask her to return the calls. Throughout your treatment, she can keep everyone informed of your condition and your needs. If she’s willing, she could match your friends with appropriate tasks, perhaps creating a calendar so you don’t get ten chicken casseroles some Thursday afternoon!
  • Food
    Anyone can bring a meal, from hot dogs to elaborate three-course dinners. They’re all welcomed when you don’t feel like cooking or can’t stand the kitchen smells. Plus, people must go to the grocery for themselves anyway; they can easily pick up your short list – and your prescriptions while they’re at it.
  • Rides To and From Chemotherapy
    This may be the only time you’re not able to drive yourself. The anti-nausea medicines given with treatment often leave you drowsy in that “Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery” way, so you’ll definitely need someone to get you home.
  • Child Care
    Those trusted friends who know your children can be great sounding-boards for them as they question this new situation. And the change of scenery is healthy.
  • Housecleaning
    I know, before cancer, no one was allowed into your home unless it was spotless. Now, if someone shows up at your door with a mop in hand, you’re nuts not to let her in.
  • Yard Work
    (See Housecleaning.)
  • Laundry
    Here’s something a friend can take home to do at her own speed.
  • Bring on the Fun!
    You know the Bible verse, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” The best person for this job is someone who has suffered and can laugh anyway. You’re going to need lots of funny movies and a good laugher to watch them with you.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Pat Godfrey McRee is a two-time breast cancer survivor and director of the Flying Colors Cancer Network at the University of Tennessee Cancer Institute in Memphis, TN.

See Words of Inspiration for poems written by Pat Godfrey McRee.

Excerpted with permission from Support to Go, The Unbook for the Journey through Breast Cancer, by Pat Godfrey McRee, copyright © 2006. To view or order, visit

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2010.