Allyship in Breast Cancer – It Takes Every Kind of Friend
By Fran Parsons
I’m not a survivor, I’m an ally.
You don’t want me making casseroles or being part of your kids car-pool for T-ball. Not the world’s greatest cook, and too competitive to cheer politely from the stands. I’m unlikely to clean your house for you, or water the plants. In fact there’s quite a laundry list of things (including the laundry) that it’s probably not best to rely on this chick to get done. I’m so grateful for the wonderful people who organize the food trains, and the organizations of fellow-survivors who can give advice based on shared experience. They are invaluable, but that’s not the type of supporter you’ll get from yours truly.
But… Want to go out for a glass of wine and forget about everything? I’m your gal! Want to stay in watch a sappy film and have a good cry – count me in. My specialty is helping you move from crying with frustration to crying with laughter. Tear-steaked faces either way. Need someone to go to the doctors with you and take notes, so your overwhelmed brain has a record of what was actually discussed? Done. Need a strong person to advocate for you when you are feeling too weak to fight? Got your back.
Every person’s relationship with their diagnosis and treatment is unique, and as such, the support network required needs to be diverse. Some days you may need help with everyday tasks, as there’s not enough fuel in the tank - and that’s where the practical friends come into play. Some days you want to do those same everyday tasks just to feel life has a semblance of normalcy. Other
days you want to enjoy the day, and some of the time you want to laugh and feel special. That’s where the not-so-practical friends come into the picture.
I hope for all people living with their diagnosis that you have supporters from all aspects of the practical-empathy spectrum. From those who will just get on with things so you can rest, to those who will hold you while you let go of everything, to those who will create a spontaneous ice-cream sundae station in your sitting room.
Your non-survivor friends can be a huge asset, as we can’t imprint our experience on to yours, and hopefully that makes us able to listen and love without feeling the need to “solve” issues. Use us in the best way that works for you. Just maybe don’t ask me to fold your clothes.