Now here to answer all your burning cancer etiquette questions is our very own Miss Malignancy!
Dear Miss Malignancy,
My friend is scheduled to have a mastectomy next week. What can I give her to make her feel better?
-- Unsure in Oklahoma
The short answer is valium. Always valium.
J/K of course. (Unless you have access to an Rx pad, in which case we should talk.)
Most people's inclination is to do nothing, and then when they see the friend six months later mumble something about keeping them in their thoughts. Yeah, don't be that guy.
What do decide to do depends a lot on the relationship you have with the person. A card with a nice note is always appreciated, and not just the day after surgery, but in the weeks of recovery that follow.
If you want to do more, there are many ways to go in the fruit basket, wine of the month, cookie bouquet realm. While I normally luurrve getting a basket of treats in the mail, this is actually not such a good time for these types of gifts. I got a few really nice ones, but I could never finish them simply because I barely felt like eating, and I certainly didn't want to ask people over to help me eat them. One of the best gifts I got was a gift card to Fresh Direct, which allowed me to buy cases of Gushers without having to show my face to anyone.
While we're on things to avoid, stop yourself from sending anything that might be considered preachy. Like, no anti-cancer diet books. Probably no books at all, because while recovering from surgery you can focus enough to read, so the stack of lovely books just makes you sad.
Don't visit in the first few days unless you are asked to*, but after that yes, visit visit visit. And make yourself useful. It's likely that no one's vacuumed in like a year, and the dog/child is itching for some fun.
* The exception being, if the person lives alone and has no one reliable to take care of her, then stick your nose in as soon as possible.