When a friend needs a breast scan it is often a time when a lot of sensitivity is required. Different people react in different ways but it is still a time when the world effectively stands still and living a normal life is suspended for the duration of the process.
Time is often the biggest stress, the time from finding the lump in her breast to the appointment for the scan can sometimes be a fortnight, a very long two weeks. And then after that comes the wait for the results. All this is very stressful time spent waiting and worrying.
It can be difficult for even the most well-intentioned friends to know how to approach this situation. Female friends are often tempted to reflect on other people they know who have also had a breast scan. This can provide reassurance, but only if your friend is wanting to discuss the procedure in this much detail.
Some people prefer to allude briefly to the fact that they have found a lump, need a breast scan and then change the subject. The most sensitive approach is to allow yourself to be guided by her. Let her raise the subject when she needs to. Some days she may want to talk about it and other days she may be too stressed and appear to be bad-tempered or irritable.
Depending on how much support she has at home, ask her if she needs anything. Does she need a lift to the hospital, has she got someone to accompany her when she goes for the appointment ? If she has no one, then maybe you can offer to go with her or suggest someone who would be appropriate company for her.
Offer telephone support. She can call you anytime, whenever she needs to. But be wary of phoning her more than you normally would. Even a friendly animated chat can be stressful if she feels that it is being done out of sympathy.
Try to find other ways of asking ‘how are you ?’ It is hard to know whether to say nothing at all and risk being thought uncaring, or to find lighter phrases like ‘you okay ?’ or even just a meaningful nod and a smile.
I tend to suggest honesty at these times. Tell her that you do not know how to proceed and want her to guide you as to the best approach for her. Tell her that you will telephone her and will be chatty and animated, but if it is too much jocularity or she wants to talk seriously about her health or any other matters then she can direct the conversation. Tell her that everything you are doing is out of love, concern and a desire to be as supportive as possible. However she reacts at the time, she knows that you are being a very good, loyal friend.
And hopefully your friend will the same good news that we have just heard about mine. Nothing to worry about.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist