The other day a work colleague told me that one of her old friends was recently diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. The doctors are trying to figure out the next steps to take in his treatment.
My colleague knows that I am living with thyroid cancer (I’m very open about it with everyone including the people I work with) and she asked me how she could help her friend. This question got me thinking about the best way to help a friend with cancer (or any illness really) and I’ve come up with some tips.
How to Help a Friend with Cancer
Be there for your friend
My colleague told me that she had been speaking to her friend a lot over the past few days. Offering to help as much as possible and emailing him articles, courses and other items that might be of interest to him. She asked me if this was all too much and if I thought she might be driving him crazy with all of this attention.
I told her it sounded to me like she was doing all the right things.
In my experience, depending on your friends and their own circumstances, some people back away when something goes wrong. For whatever reason, some people can’t handle the idea that a close friend is ill, in pain or needs help.
I understand completely how difficult it can be to see your friend or loved one sick, but this is the time that your friend or loved one needs you most.
When a person is sick, knowing that their friends and family are there to rally around them can really help.
If it’s challenging for you to see your friend ill, think about how your friend feels. If you were in the same boat, what would you want? A visit? A phone call? A quick text to check in?
There’s no need to spend hours by your friend’s side but please do make an effort to reach out to your friend and check up.
When someone isn’t well, she likely doesn’t want to constantly be reminded of her sickness. She also likely doesn’t want to talk or think about it all the time. Also, no-one wants to be made to feel different because she’s sick.
This is where good friends come into play – go to a movie together, out for coffee or to get your nails done. Tell your friend about what’s going on in your life and with your family. This is helpful because it can take your friend’s mind off her troubles and allow her to offer you support as well.
If your friend isn’t strong enough to venture out of her house, bring the distraction to her – magazines, books or watch a funny movie together on Netflix.
Often, just having company can make a huge difference in brightening someone’s day.
If you and your friend both have kids, get them together for a play date.
Having been in this situation, one major source of anxiety for me was knowing whether or not R was being taken care of, happy and having fun. I was lucky. R was in full time daycare at the time of my surgery and RAI treatment so not much in his routine changed. Because he was in daycare, he was able to keep hanging out with his friends without much involvement from me.
Had R been at home with me, I know I would have appreciated friends dropping by with their kids to keep R entertained and busy. This would have been especially true had I been bedridden for a certain amount of time.
Support your Friend’s Partner
Like many women, I worry more about my family than I do about myself. In addition to being concerned about R, I’m concerned about E’s well-being.
Your friend’s partner likely won’t ask for help but reach out to support him or her as well. I can only imagine that there are so many emotions and challenges that can come along with having a sick partner and he or she needs that extra support.
Help with Day to Day Activities
The day to day activities like cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the house are often the tasks that get put off when you’re sick. One of the best ways to help a friend with cancer is to help with these day to day activities.
Any help you can provide a friend is always greatly appreciated. From baking muffins and bringing them over, to arranging for a cleaning service to help with the house. All of these small things show concern and an understanding for what your friend and his/her family are experiencing.
Has one of your friends dealt with a difficult health challenge? What did you do to help your friend?
If you’d like to read more about my health journey you can check out these posts: