Two years ago, Rachel Platten’s hit “Fight Song” not only took over the charts, but became a battle cry for many of the 252,710 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. At virtually every single concert, the singer would meet at least one person who would say, “I have breast cancer and your song helped me.”
Platten was touched by each encounter, but things really hit close to home when one of her best friends from college found out she had the BRCA gene. “Although she didn’t have cancer, she decided to take the preventive step and get a double mastectomy,” Platten says.
What exactly do you say to a friend trying to make such a massive decision? Will your words make any kind of difference at all? Yes, they can—something Platten has learned first-hand. Here, she shares how you can help someone you know, even when you’re initially at a loss for what to say or do.
Scroll down for Rachel Platten’s tips on how to be a good friend to someone with breast cancer.
Give them permission to feel
It’s impossible to prepare for how you’ll feel to hear someone you love utter three of the most dreadful words in existence: I have cancer. There’s no script for what to say next, so Platten recommends listening. “Something I’ve learned to do is to just try to hold the space for that person to feel whatever it is they want to feel,” she says. “I don’t try to make it better. I don’t tell them how they should feel. Just giving them that permission to be in whatever mood they’re in can be exactly what anyone going through something tough wants.”
Of course you want to be encouraging to your friend, but giving them the opportunity to talk about their fears is a meaningful way to be there for them, too.
Show they’re on your mind
One way Platten helped her friend as she underwent her double mastectomy was by putting together care packages through Ford’s Warriors In Pink campaign. (A full 100 percent of the profits is donated to the fight against breast cancer.)
“My friends and I put together 10 different ones, so she had something to look forward to and open every day,” Platten says. “Inside were coloring books, scarves, a pillow made specifically for women who have had a mastectomy, and also personal things like music and books I knew she would like.” It’s especially a thoughtful gift if you want to show your love from far away and can’t be there to drive your friend to the hospital or sit with her during chemo.
Platten says her biggest advice is to remember that no action is too small. “Nothing is lost on someone who’s feeling alone,” she says. “Even if you feel uncomfortable and don’t think you can help, just a phone call or text can turn someone’s day around. Sometimes, simply saying, ‘There is no way I can understand what you’re feeling or how much you’re hurting, but I’m here,’ goes a long way.”
Making meals and visits to the hospital are great, but your friend mostly just wants to know you aren’t going anywhere. As Platten points out, “Feeling connected through your friends and loved ones is worth so much more than people realize.”