Well, this sucks.
May 17, 2013 11:13 AM   Subscribe

So my best friend has ovarian cancer. And she's a divorced mom with no family. All of the support is going to come from friends, and I'm the Friend Leader. I'm going to be asking a million questions about this, I bet, in the coming months, but here's where I'm starting: if I say anything sweet or sentimental to her, she's gonna give me a black eye. I need snarky, sarcastic humor & presents for one of the smartest cancer patients ever.

No Hallmark cards, that's for sure. I need jokes, I need "Fuck Cancer" times ten. I need the world's funniest cancer t-shirt. I need the cancer version of the wolf howl t-shirt or the Bic pens for women.

I was thinking of making her a cancer gift basket filled with ridiculata. So what goes in it? A rainbow wig? A panoply of good luck charms? Or the most ridiculously outrageous "pink ribbon" crap. Is there a pink ribbon condom? Is there a pink ribbon speculum?

Is there a cancer get-well card that will actually make her laugh? Is there a website I should be reading? Is there a meme about life being better once your female parts have been scraped out and thrown in the trash?

Lay it all on me, please. I am sad and this is how I want to process it for now.
posted by BlahLaLa to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Assure her that her children will be cared for if things don't go well. That's what matters most. The stuff you are doing now is what everyone does when it's early and everyone doesn't really know what's going on and they think everything's going to work itself out somehow. It's not that it's unappreciated, it's just that it doesn't much matter. But it doesn't always work itself out somehow, and believe me, your friend is well aware of that. What she needs to know is that even if she dies, her kids will be OK.

I'm assuming her kids are still young enough to not be taking care of themselves, since you are taking the lead on this rather than them.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:19 AM on May 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

Get her The Cancer Card.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Primarily for young adults with cancer or in remission, but there are lots of resources there.
posted by digiFramph at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify: all of the legal stuff (will, trust, what's going on with child custody, her estate, etc) is handled.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:22 AM on May 17, 2013

Best answer: When I had a hysterectomy (supposedly for a precancerous uterus that turned out to be cancerous), some friends of mine - including one now-mefite - gave me a hideously ugly horseshoe-shaped floral arrangement that looked like it should be hung on a horse that wins a race, and it had a banner that said "BEST WISHES ON YOUR NEUTERING" and it delighted me.

There's always the Fuck Cancer cross-stitch sampler.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2013 [30 favorites]

Well, it's possible that she'll beat it. I'm in her corner. I had a prophalactic hysterectomy to avoid ovarian cancer because it runs in my family, and I'm amazed at how far we've come.

When my friend had breast cancer, she went to the lawyers and put me and Husbunny on all of the legal paperwork for her daughter. Sure, there's her dad and grandma first, but it made my friend feel better knowing that we were 1/2 responsible for the finances, and if push came to shove, that we'd take her kid in and raise her if it came to that.

Instead of buying a bunch of cancer stuff, do what I did and get random stuff and stock her pantry. Going through chemo, surgery etc, is tiring and you don't want to run out of toilet paper. I ended up going to Costco and I got her a huge box of Bisquick. I'm still catching shit for that, but it's remembered fondly.

She'll need transportation to and from her procedures, so make sure she has a ride when she needs one.

Get her some video packages of tv shows that were popular when she was young. The Partidge Family for example. There is something about hanging out at home, mindlessly watching something you enjoyed when you were younger.

I only wish I had received a "Best Wishes on Your Neutering" flower arrangement.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:27 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about a plushie cancer cell? It's also good for taking out frustrations on.
posted by Gneisskate at 11:28 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah...
Is there a meme about life being better once your female parts have been scraped out and thrown in the trash?

Back when I had my uterus out (the ovaries came out later, when Return of the King was released), it was 1998 and there were no "YAY HYSTERECTOMY" web pages I could find. Anecdotal evidence from me and other hysterectomied women I know is that we were all too busy being AWESOME IN OUR NEUTERED CRONE-ARCHETYPE-NATURE to write web pages about it and the only people motivated to do so were the ones who wanted to bitch about it. Now there are more web pages, but I suspect the same is true for meme-making. Of course, now I'm trying to think of hysterectomy-related memes. The best I can do for now is to point you towards a place that has answers for many of life's questions, Dinosaur Comics, in this case, comic 728.

Since I had my ovaries out, I have noticed exactly one presumably-menopausal symptom that interferes with my life: The chemicals in the hot tub at my gym makes my skin itch like a mofo. That's it.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:34 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

When we found out my partner had pretty severe liver disease and would need a transplant, I put together a binder so we could easily track all medical news/paperwork/etc easily but also PUT IN IT A FUCKING DRAWER when we didn't want to think of it at all.

It was a place for us to track doctor's appointments, what they said, anything they gave us, but I also put in a lot of personal jokes -- most very inappropriate in a traditional Hallmark way (the first that comes to mind is that once he got the new liver, we could take it out to the bar for a test drive -- this is only funny because said liver disease had nothing to do with alcohol but that probably wouldn't have stopped me) and made a cover for it as well (that I kept pretty tame since we were taking it back and forth to the hospital)

But honestly, the best thing about it was just having some sort of amusing thing that we could throw info in when we didn't want to deal with it so we didn't feel like it was taking over our apartment.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:35 AM on May 17, 2013

Mod note: This is a response from an anonymous commenter.
I'm a divorced snarky-as-hell mom, no family around, also recently diagnosed with cancer and getting treatment. My best friend is in your shoes as well. This is what I'd tell her: "I need you to watch Arrested Development and Monty Python with me and say stuff like, 'I want to punch your stupid cancer in the face.' I need you to keep it relatively light. I need you to go on walks with me when we can. I need you to just bring over some food so I don't have to worry about the kids having healthy meals.

But here's the deal: I might actually die. Seriously. I now know, 24 hours a day, that this time next year, I could be dead.

So yeah, let's not get all Lifetime movie with my time of need, but y'know, don't get too damned jokey about it either.

Sometimes I do want to cry about this, and if you're always making light, I wonder if you actually get what the hell I'm going through.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:40 AM on May 17, 2013 [35 favorites]

When I was going through treatment, my sister and I did this thing where we'd make awful silly gurning faces and hold both thumbs up. I don't know why it was so comforting, but it was.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:58 AM on May 17, 2013

Mrs. Wallflower and I have both had cancer. Jokes are good, but there will be a need for hugs and sympathy, too. Learn to recognize when those needs arise.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:02 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

If she likes board games, Pandemic determines the first player by who has been sick most recently. She can ALWAYS go first (until this she's in remission).
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:12 PM on May 17, 2013

If she likes board games, Pandemic determines the first player by who has been sick most recently. She can ALWAYS go first (until this she's in remission).

Please don't do this. She knows she's sick.
posted by kinetic at 12:23 PM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

All I would ask for is whatever practical help my friends can spare and conversatiomn and company.
posted by BenPens at 12:46 PM on May 17, 2013

Don't forget to carve out a small corner for yourself.

Over the long term, cancer is at least as hard (emotionally) on family and friends as on the patient, and the central caregiver/venter/booster/pal, then you will need space & time to keep your own head screwed on straight.

Yes, I have a cite for this; I can dig it up if anyone wants.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:55 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cancer Made Me A Shallower Person The writer had breast cancer, but, you know, fuck all cancer. Really fuck all cancer, because this writer died of it five years after diagnosis, but she kept doing these comics until she couldn't any more.

This one is also related to breast cancer (can you tell I had breast cancer?) but I REALLY like it and have given it to a ton of people. Five Lessons I Didn't Learn From Breast Cancer
posted by janey47 at 12:57 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

OH also, don't give her pink stuff. Even in jest, pink is ugh. Also, ovarian cancer awareness is teal, not pink.
posted by janey47 at 1:00 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just heard about this book, How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick, the author was interviewed on my local public radio station and she seemed to have great practical advice. Might be helpful in your role as Friend Leader.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 1:04 PM on May 17, 2013

Best answer: When a friend was undergoing chemo for breast cancer, I have her a plush white blood cell. She was running low on them so I thought maybe this would help out.
posted by workerant at 1:56 PM on May 17, 2013

The best information you'll ever get is available at http://www.inspire.com/groups/ovarian-cancer-national-alliance/, a forum for those with ovarian cancer - the women there are at all stages, have been through all chemo regimens, can't be shocked at whatever rage you're feeling, will do their best to help you along.

I wish you the best.
posted by aryma at 7:28 PM on May 17, 2013

Having just gone through testicular cancer treatment, I know sort of what your friend is going through. A good friend of mine would come over periodically and just hang out, watch tv with me, and above all not talk about cancer. It's refreshing to have a break once in awhile. Food preparation is also very tiring, so maybe organizing other friends to bring freezable things over would be a good idea.

This will be tough on the both of you, but the most important thing to stay positive. Things will be hard (extremely hard), but then they get better and then suddenly she'll deal with body hair and eyebrows again and you'll both look back and have no idea what the fuck just happened. It'll pass, you'll go back to your lives, and then a few months later she'll have a checkup and a panic attack and you guys will go through it all over again.
posted by zrail at 9:29 PM on May 17, 2013

Is there a meme about life being better once your female parts have been scraped out and thrown in the trash?

I dunno about any memes, but my aunt-by-marriage once told me that her (medically-required) hysterectomy was the most liberating thing she'd ever experienced. She had had several children, all of whom she loved dearly, and where she was at that point in her life, it was so completely the right thing to do.

Very best wishes to your friend.
posted by Lexica at 9:36 PM on May 17, 2013

She might enjoy the now-legendary Tig Notaro "I Have Cancer" standup show.
posted by EKStickland at 11:28 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry, here's some background on the Tig Notaro show.
posted by EKStickland at 11:30 PM on May 17, 2013

When my mom was dying from ovarian cancer, one of my good friends who lived across the country sent me a card. I forget what funny image it had on the front, but inside it said "CANCER IS A DICK. YOU ARE NOT A DICK. I MISS YOU!"

She always knew just what to say.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:04 AM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wigs are great. My friend with cancer has a beautiful aquamarine wig. When my other friend got a double mastectomy she was joking about getting stars tattooed in place of nipples. The jokes just sort of arrive when the time is right. My thoughts to you and your friend.
posted by feets at 2:48 PM on May 18, 2013

Is she's not a Pollyanna by nature, she might find this useful. Thinking positive or at least being pleasant around your doctors and nurses so they want to help you, probably good. The rest of the time, if it's not your nature, no worries. You can't think your way out of cancer anymore than you can allergies or the flu or a broken leg, despite what a lot of people are going to tell her. Make her laugh. Give her funny stuff, games, books she'll enjoy. My best friend sent me tons of funny, nonsensical postcards at random, and silly small items to enjoy. She should avoid crazy cancer bulletin board sites and magical cure advice from friends. Feel free to memail me if you'd like.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 4:44 PM on May 27, 2013

Response by poster: You guys are awesome. This is an ongoing situation, but I'm going to mark this resolved just because. The plush cancer cell was both funny and a teaching tool for Sick Friend's daughter (since it turns inside out and the white blood cell triumphs! yay!). And I'm just getting started on the Fuck Cancer cross stitch.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:41 AM on June 20, 2013

« Older How to find a Web designer to improve a current...   |   Is there a less expensive way to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.