Your friend just told you the news that nobody wants to hear: “I have cancer.” You may feel that you want to help them and show you care, but you don’t know how to help or what to say. Sending thoughtful gifts, helping with the everyday basics, or just sitting down, listening to them, and offering a shoulder to cry on are great ways to help. Here are a few ways you can help a friend that is fighting, with some insight from a cancer survivor:
Be There, Listen
All someone with cancer may want is someone to listen. Letting your friend cry on your shoulder or giving them a hug could be as helpful and thoughtful as a tangible gift. Acknowledge that your friend is going through a hard time. You may feel like you don’t know what to say, and that’s okay too. Instead of saying “I know what you’re going through,” if you’ve never had cancer or “everything will be okay,” when it may not feel like it, say things like “This must be tough, I’m here for you.”
Focus on the Good
Encourage talking about topics that don’t focus on their disease. Talk about fun times, gossip with friends; things you’ve always talked about. “One big thing for me was not treating me like I was sick,” 23-year-old Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor Brenna Crowe said, “My friends planned nights out to help me forget I was even sick.” Taking a positive approach could help make things seem a bit better than they may feel. “I had a friend come with me to try on wigs right before I lost my hair, and it kind of made things a lot less miserable when we made it fun,” recalls Crowe.
Help With Everyday Life
Sometimes, the nicest thing you can do is just to help with everyday tasks. Running errands, cleaning the house, or cooking dinner may become harder to do when your friend is receiving treatment and feeling tired. Visits to the hospital or treatment center may be everyday life for them now. Offer to give them a ride to a doctor’s appointment or go to a treatment session with them. “Days could be really long, so when friends came to treatments, it made them a lot easier and go by a lot faster,” Crowe said about her experience.
Send Thoughtful Gifts
When most people think “get well” gifts, they think flowers or homemade meals. While someone going through chemotherapy may appreciate the thought of flowers or food, flowers could irritate their weakened immune system and food may accentuate the nausea caused by their treatment. Instead, give a thoughtful gift such as a book to read or movie to watch during the long days of treatment. Consider a gift certificate to a spa for a massage, or a local grocery store so they can pick up their everyday items.
We all want to do our best to help a friend or family member that has had their life changed by cancer. If you aren’t sure how you can help, always ask. Whether you give a gift, a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold, support from a friend will always help with the road to recovery.