DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is terminally ill. She has been battling breast cancer for many years, and it has reached stage 4. I didn't even know what that meant at first, but I read up on it and see that it means it has metastasized. I feel so sad for her, even though she is in great spirits. As a friend, I'm not really sure what I should be doing to support her. I call her from time to time, but I know her doctor told her not to use too much energy. When she gets on the phone, she gets going and could be talking for hours on end. She has a family, including teenage children. I want to be there for her and for them. We aren't the best of friends, but we have been friends for a long time. She is very open about her illness. What should I do? -- Having Her Back, Brooklyn, New York
DEAR HAVING HER BACK: Go visit your friend and talk to her in person. Tell her that you want to be of help. Determine your boundaries about support before you go. For instance, if you are not in a position to help care for her children, do not offer that. If you do want to be a mentor to them, speak up. If you are a good cook and you could help prepare meals now and even possibly after she passes, offer specifically what you can do.
It is important for you not to overpromise. In a delicate situation like this, offers are taken very seriously. Evaluate what you can manage and present that to her, even if it is as minimal as calling on a regular basis to check in on her status, leaving what happens in the future to the future. Make sure your friend knows that you care tremendously about her and her family, and offer her your prayers.