Sir Francis Bacon is supposed to be the first person who came up with the saying, "Knowledge is power". Wise man.
Sir Alexander Pope thought differently. "A little learning is a dangerous thing." Another wise man.
It is true that knowledge is important, never more than if you have cancer. You need knowledge of your disease. What are your options? What side-effects can you expect from the treatment? How can you promote the effectiveness of the medication? What should you avoid doing? And so the list goes on. If you have a friend or loved one who has cancer, by all means, seek to help them by finding out about the type of cancer she is dealing with.
If she doesn't seem to have a good understanding herself, look on the Internet (although make sure you look at reliable websites) or look for good books on the subject. If you know what sort of side effects to expect, you may find you can help ease her worries and provide her with information she missed when she spoke to her medical team.
If she doesn't have a switched-on family-member to accompany her to the doctor, offer to go with her and take a notebook. Encourage her to ask questions from the medical personnel who are treating her. She needs to know what to do and who she can contact if she has problems. It's helpful to know at what stage you need to seek help, and what is in fact normal.
At the same time, if she seems to be coping herself, avoid giving her a lot of extra information or suggesting some of the side effects she may in fact never experience. There are some side effects are that are universal. They virtually always happen. But she just could be the exception. Where she needs to be prepared for possibilities, she doesn't need to face the crises before they arrive.
I had two full chemotherapy regimes. The first one was extremely aggressive, and my onclogist warned me I would lose my hair after the very first treatment. I was prepared with a set of scarves, a turban, and a designer wig that looked more like my own hairstyle than my own hair ever did. Yet I never lost my hair. Not in a full year of treatment. I had everyone baffled. It looked pretty ghastly, and I had one spot that I had to arrange my hair over very gently to hide my scalp, but it was hair.
I was also supposed to battle with nausea with both regime. I came home from the first treatment armed with medication. The first evening, I went home and fetched a glass of water, taking the tablet out of its wrapping so that I could take it at the first sign of nausea. I never needed it. The only time I vomitted in the entire year was the night I got food poisoning! And then the whole family kept me company.
So was my doctor wrong in warning me? Absolutely not. Was I wrong in getting the scarves, turban and wig? Definitely not. Should I have waited to get the anti-nausea medication if and when I needed it? No ways. These are all common side-effects. I was an exception to the rule. Had I reacted normally, it would have saved me much trauma, being prepared to take steps when the signs first showed up.
Before you think I had an easy time, trust me, I didn't. I had many side effects and complications, in some cases I have never heard of anyone else reacting the way I did. But I didn't vomit, and I didn't lose my hair. So your friend should be prepared but don't pressure her into believing these things will definitely happen.
If you do collect information that you think may be helpful, rather than dropping a giant pile of literature on your friend's lap, mention you have it. Offer to share it with her if and when she wants it. If she says, "No thanks!" step back. At least you are in a better position to support her if the need arises.
Best of all, look for positive stories and books with good suggestions. Help her to look to her treatment with hope in her heart, and not dreading every possible symptom that just may come her way. Then you will be a true friend.