When helping a friend with cancer it’s important to remember that there are no set rules and every friendship is different. Be sure to think about your unique relationship and let that guide you.
Helping a friend with cancer starts with you
Before focussing on your friend it could be useful to process your feelings. Take time to acknowledge and cope with your feelings about the diagnosis, so that when you see your friend you can focus on them.
It could also be useful for you to learn about the diagnosis, as it is possible that your friend won’t want to talk about it and this can help with your approach.
Your offers of help
Many people find it hard to ask for help.
If receiving practical help is difficult for your friend, you can gently remind them that you do not expect them to return the favour and you do it because you care. While not being pushy, try to suggest specific tasks. Asking “how can I help?” can be broad and overwhelming for your friend.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- prepare a meal
- pick up prescriptions
- do the shopping
- organize doctor appointments
- take them to appointments
- make difficult phone calls
- tidy the house
- take care of children
- talk to their partner
- take care of a pet
- do the washing up
- arrange a night out (or at home with a movie)
- arrange a simple day out
- help research subjects as directed by your friend
- read his or her emails/blog if they decide to write about their cancer
- let them know that you are available if an unexpected need comes up
- organize a phone chain/or support team to regularly check on your friend
- offer to take notes during an appointment
- offer to provide company during a treatment
- go for a walk together
Think about the little things your friend enjoys and what makes life “normal” for them. Offer to help make these activities easier.
Last thoughts regarding helping a friend with cancer
Please follow through. If you commit to helping, it is important that you follow through on your promise.
And treat them the same. Try not to let your friend’s condition get in the way of your friendship. As much as possible, treat him or her the same way you always have.
Continuing friendships and regular activities after a cancer diagnosis is a great way to further the healing process. But remember that friends also need encouragement and support after treatment has finished. After their treatment, your friend will be trying to find his or her “new normal”. Friendships are an important part of that. With the practical approach, your friendship can make a lasting difference to your friend with cancer.
Dr Cohen started her working life as a research scientist and lecturer with over 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications.
She followed a classical scientific career until she left mainstream science in 2000 (which coincided with the birth of her first daughter) to establish the Life Science Communications company, Euroscicon Ltd.
Euroscicon Ltd was her first company (which she sold in 2016).
In 2013 she was diagnosed with Cancer and set up Cancer Care Parcel
She also works with and establishes businesses and charities which benefit local, national and international communities.