How Friendships Can Help You Through Cancer


A lunch out with friends may be more therapeutic than you think.

One of the healing aspects we tend to forget or downplay on our cancer journey is the value of support from friends. Research has documented how essential friends are in order to have the mind-body-spirit connection in our continuous fight against cancer.

Stanford University is on the cutting edge in their studies on this subject. Reviews are mixed whether or not support groups actually help people with breast cancer to live longer. However, to me, there is no doubt that people in support groups are happier and live better!

Increasingly we know that Reiki, massage therapy, nutrition groups, exercise groups and essential oils can be beneficial during healing. Many top cancer centers are including these services in addition to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation in their treatment plans.

What I was shocked to read, however, was that David Spiegel, M.D., associate chair of Psychology at Stanford University, has emphasized what helps people to live longer. For males, it is to be married and for females, it is to nurture relationships with her girlfriends. He even has a YouTube titled “How your friends help you live longer.”

Why is this? Traditionally, women talk more about their feeling to each other, while men will tend to converse about sports or hunting or fishing. Most men may not talk about feelings with their guy friends, which are why those with a wife tend to live longer, according to Spiegel.

Translate this to cancer. Women can confide to other women how they feel about pain, fear of dying, leaving people they cherish behind and if they are having a good or bad day. Spiegel explains the scientific reason for this. “Girlfriend time” actually produces more serotonin neurotransmitter in the brain, which helps to combat depression and make us feel good. He emphasizes that those lunches out and times together with friends are not a waste of time.

I do want to state my personal opinion. Fortunately, the split between genders is changing for the better. I remember when men were ashamed to cry or show emotion, and that is more acceptable now. They also need to be encouraged to have friends since they have emotions and feelings too! On the flip side, I love sitting with both male and female friends and talking about baseball, football and basketball!

Cancer survivors need to develop every single support we can to fight this insidious disease. Friends are very special. So, go out with your friends, laugh together, cry together and talk a lot. It may not cure you, but you could live a little longer and most of all enjoy life more. That is the most important of all!

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