You may not be a doctor, but for someone who has breast cancer, a good friend is the best thing you can be.

“Your loved one is still the same person, don’t forget they are still themselves with some rough days ahead and need you,” Director of Grayson College Libraries Lisa Hebert, a breast cancer survivor, said via email. “I was supported by loved ones during my operation and my 6 months of treatment. I have been cancer free for 7 years this November.”

Supportive friendships during diagnosis, treatment and recovery can make a huge impact on the lives of those who have been affected by the disease.

“Support is a strong weapon in the fight against breast cancer,” Brooke Parker Wingate, director of social media and educational outreach at the American Breast Cancer Foundation, said. “It improves patients’ quality of life, as well as their morale through the difficult treatment process. It also has the potential to increase survival for certain women, and those with strong social ties are less likely to have cancer re-occur.”

Not sure how to help?

“There are hundreds of things you can do,” Sandy Finestone, a member of Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board and a breast cancer survivor who runs support groups, said. Here are just a few:

Share your journey

If you’ve experienced breast cancer, share your knowledge and practical suggestions. One way to help is to interpret the language of the medical community, which can be confusing to a person newly diagnosed, Finestone said. Additionally, sharing your success — being a survivor — can make someone feel safe and give her confidence, Finestone said.

Women Rock board President Keary Conrad said she’s seen women battling breast cancer become fast friends.

“They have a really strong bond with each other and it is very important because they can relate to each other,” Conrad said. “Because they’ve been through it and so the bond that they have together through Women Rock is amazing. They go on retreats together and are able to just get away from the fact that they have cancer or celebrate the fact that they’re a survivor of cancer together. It’s just a bond that they will have for their whole lives.”

Live life outside of cancer

“Remember the best friend you had before they were diagnosed? They haven’t changed, just their health has,” Wingate said. “Although cancer is a big part of their lives, that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing they have going on or want to talk about. There is a life outside of cancer. Make sure your friend is being treated the same as they were before. Don’t ever be afraid to talk or learn about your friend’s cancer process, but remember that it doesn’t need to be your only topic of conversation.”

Visit the doctor together

Being a good friend means accompanying a friend to doctor’s appointments and taking notes. A woman diagnosed with breast cancer is overwhelmed and not always hearing what the doctor says, Finestone said. Taking good notes is not only helpful, it’s crucial to her getting good health care.

Be specific

Saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” or “I’m here if you need to talk” sounds helpful, but really, it puts the effort on your friend, not yourself.

“Instead of having them ask you for favors, suggest your own,” Wingate said. For example: “I’m going to the grocery store; what do you need?” or “When’s your next checkup? I’m available to drive and keep you company.”

Go fish for a favor

Fill a fishbowl, jar or vase with strips of paper that each list a small favor that would be appreciated, such as “pick up the dry cleaning” or “drive Joey to football practice,” Finestone said. Not only is it easy, it lets everyone off the hook.

“People truly want to help, but no one has time to make dinner for someone else every night of the week. I can make dinner on Tuesday night, though,” Finestone said.

Lend an ear

Hebert said a great way to support a loved one is to just listen to them or sit in silence if need be.

“Sometimes just knowing you are there a hand reach away, but the pressure is off to have to talk about it, is just what they need,” Hebert said.

Notes and calls

Make sure your friend continues to know she is important to you. Send brief but frequent notes or texts or make short regular phone calls, suggests the American Cancer Society. Ask questions and end with “I’ll be in touch soon.” Be sure to be in contact when it’s convenient for your friend and return messages promptly.

“One of the things that kept me going through treatment was my daughter and I watching comedies and giggling,” Hebert said. “She would text me a joke every morning and give me a card with something she had drawn on it every night.”

Let her vent

Women struggling with breast cancer put on brave faces with their families and at work, Finestone said. A good friend will allow them to let down their guard, be vulnerable and show their fear. Let her confide in you. When a good friend says she’s frightened, your job is to answer back, “That’s normal. I’m there for you.”

Hebert suggested you should be realistic, but also positive and hopeful. “Let them cry, and let them be strong,” the Grayson College library director said.

Small acts of kindness

“Coming over to watch a movie when they aren’t feeling well, bringing over a home-cooked meal, a donation to a cancer research organization (made in her name), a handwritten card or email are all simple ways to keep in touch and let your friend know you are thinking about them,” Wingate said.

Follow her lead

“The best thing a friend can do for a friend going through a hard time is to be respectful and follow their lead. Does your friend want to talk about it? Talk about it! Is your friend avoiding the topic like the plague? You better not bring it up,” said Molly Borman, founder and chief executive officer of Just Nips.

Just Nips are a fun gift for friends going through treatment and reconstruction, but the self-adhesive fake nipples can be worn by anyone or are a great conversation starter.

“Losing your nipples is one of the most under-discussed parts of certain breast cancer treatments, and we are all about normalizing that aspect as part of our commitment to body positivity and acceptance for all types of bodies,” Borman said.

Schedule a visit

Cancer can be isolating, but make sure to schedule visits rather than just dropping by, according to the American Cancer Society. Try to arrange a visit when you can give a regular caregiver an opportunity to get out of the house. Begin and end with a touch, hug or handshake. Be understanding if asked to leave. Offer to bring a snack or treat so as not to impose, and refer to your next visit so your friend can look forward to it.

Be creative

“The perfect gift doesn’t have to be perfect at all. What are your friend’s favorite things to do? Eat? Use your best-friend knowledge to pick out fun things that show them you care,” Wingate said. “The smallest gifts can sometimes be the most meaningful. You know your friend better than anyone else. Cancer doesn’t have to be the theme of the gift in order for it to be personalized towards them.”

Run an errand; do a task

Some great ideas from the American Cancer Society: Clean a friend’s home for an hour every Saturday. Babysit her children. Return or pick up a library book. Buy groceries. Go to post office. Help make to-do lists. Commit to taking her child to sports practice or music lessons.

It’s OK to not be OK

“Cancer affects more than just the individuals who have been diagnosed with the disease. Breast cancer places an emotional toll on the family, friends and loved ones,” Wingate said. “If you are struggling to cope with a friend’s cancer, you are not alone. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling, what your concerns are and learn how to healthily process these emotions. It’s OK to not be OK, but often when people aren’t able to handle their friend’s sickness, they ignore or avoid the situation, abandoning their friend in their greatest time of need. Be there for yourself and talk to someone about your emotions, so you can be there for your friend.”

Conrad said friendships are essential for anyone battling cancer.

“It’s a time when you are alone and no one understands you,” she said. “So to have those relationships like those ladies have through Women Rock is amazing watch with each other and the support system they are to each other is phenomenal.”