A good online friend of mine (we're both sort-of hermits who have a considerably bigger online friendship circle than RL) went to the hospital yesterday for a hysterectomy after they discovered a mass that couldn't easily be extracted otherwise. While we have a malignant diagnosis, she doesn't have much more in the way of details (e.g., staging info). She should have that on Monday.
I had already planned to send something (Shari's Berries at the suggestion of her housemate - I asked a few days in advance of her surgery) and do some art for her as a gift before we got the cancer diagnosis post-hysterectomy. However, I have some anxieties about coming across as smothering - even though these were things that I planned to do even before the diagnosis. I'm still doing it, but I feel more cognizant of and worried about her feelings than I would normally be. This isn't to say that I wouldn't normally be concerned about them (anxiety and supernatural empathy sees to it that I'm hypersensitive to everyone's feelings) - I'm now just in a state of constant vigilance / overanalysis. I don't want to put any undue stress or emotional burden on her right now, and I don't want her to feel a sense of obligation towards me for doing nice things I would have done for her anyway.
I spoke with my psychologist yesterday and she said that most of her patients with cancer have been hurt by the lack of support rather than too much of it. Which brings me to a series of questions that I hope will help me to better help my friend while she gets through this time (thanks in advance for any help you can provide!):
1. What do you wish that people would do that they don't? What do people do that you wish they wouldn't?
2. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the attention? What should I do to ensure that I don't overwhelm her? I'm trying to give her space to process right now (her housemate and best friend is there to support her in-person right now and I'm sure she's her primary support for the time being, by virtue of being physically present), but at the same time I don't want to overwhelm her. I'm still trying to find that balance.
3. How were you supported remotely from friends / family that were far away that helped you a great deal?
4. Should I act like things are normal? My knee-jerk reaction is not to burden her with my own trivial grievances about work or my housemate or my art while she's coping with this, but I'm also worried that she does need that normalcy in her life. What did you want for yourself?
My number one objective right now is to make sure she knows she's supported and loved. Figuring out how to make sure she knows this is difficult, especially when she usually feels guilty about gifts and has her own anxiety sometimes about making sure everyone around her is happy / not upset. I'm hoping that with some perspective I can get a better feel for how to support her while she's working through this.
Thanks again for reading - and for any suggestions you can offer.