DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who had breast cancer several years ago. She seems to be in the safe zone, so to speak, in that six years have gone by. She told me that if you pass five years without a relapse, you are considered to be cancer-free. I started thinking that maybe this is something I should celebrate with her. Just as I was going to suggest doing something special in honor of her good health, she told me that another friend of hers just died from complications of some kind of cancer that came back after several years.
My friend is so sad and I want to support her, but I don’t think a celebration is in order at this time. What can I do to cheer her up and let her know how grateful I am that she is alive? I don’t want to be insensitive. I just want to show her that she is greatly loved. -- Cancer Be Gone
DEAR CANCER BE GONE: You do not have to create a special occasion to spend time with your friend and show her your love. Now that her good friend has died, she will likely appreciate your support and attention. Invite her to do something upbeat that she enjoys that will allow you two to have fun and talk to each other. Let her guide the conversation about her health and her friend. Do your best to be a good listener, and refrain from being an inquisitor.
When people lose loved ones, they often think about their own mortality. This is especially true for cancer survivors. Your best way of showing your love is to listen and follow your friend’s cues. She will let you know what she wants to discuss.