Your friend has been told they have cancer. They may be feeling fear, sadness, anger, anxiety, depression and stress amongst other things. They could be facing many challenges, practical and emotional and will need care, help and support. Here are eight ways you can support a friend with cancer.
Ask permission before visiting, calling, giving advice or asking questions.
Before visiting, giving advice and asking questions, ask if it is welcome. Be sure to make it clear that saying no is perfectly fine. Start your visit by saying “It’s good to see you” rather than commenting on any physical change. Make time for a check-in phone call. Let your friend know when you will be calling and also that it is ok not to answer the phone.
Laugh together. Be fun when appropriate and when fun is needed.
Be humorous and fun when needed and appropriate. A light conversation or a funny story can make a friend’s day.
Allow for sadness. Do not ignore uncomfortable feelings.
Learning a friend has cancer can be difficult news to receive. Process your own feelings and learn about the diagnosis before you see your friend as this way the focus will be on them. Your friend may be experiencing a mixture of feelings. Everybody reacts differently, but some of the emotions they may be feeling are shock, disbelief, avoidance, guilt, blame, loss of control, independence and confidence, withdrawal, loneliness and isolation. Your friend may find that some feelings pass with time while others linger. Sharing thoughts and feelings can often help.
Make flexible plans. This gives your friend something to look forward to.
Make flexible plans that are easy to change in case your friend needs to cancel or reschedule. Your friend may need something to look forward to and cancer treatments can be long and drawn out.
Follow through. If you commit to help, it is important that you follow through on your promise.
If you commit to help, it is important that you follow through on your promise as your friend may need people they can trust and rely on more than ever.
Treat them the same. Don’t let cancer get in the way of your friendship.
Try not to let your friend’s condition get in the way of your friendship. As much as possible, treat them the same way you always have.
Offer to help them with specific tasks, such as preparing a meal, looking after a pet, looking after their children.
Many people find it hard to ask for help. However, your friend will almost certainly appreciate an offer of help. You can offer to help with specific tasks, such as taking care of children, taking care of a pet, or preparing a meal. However, if your friend declines an offer, don’t take it personally.
Talk about topics other than cancer. They may need a break from talking about the disease.
Ask about interests, hobbies, and other topics not related to cancer. People going through treatment sometimes need a break from talking about the disease.
Natalie Murphy is one of Cancer Care Parcels authorised contributors.