Supporting Your friend Through Cancer – Fear. Anger. Frustration. Confusion. A cancer diagnosis is like being hit by a train.
Offering your support is important. But before you act too fast or not at all, take time to think about how your friend or loved one may be feeling – and what they really need from you.
Many studies have found that cancer patients with strong emotional support have a more positive outlook that extends to better responses to treatment.
Expressing your support, especially when your friend in need lives far away, can be difficult. Knowing what to do is not easy, but don’t let the fear of getting it wrong freeze you into doing nothing. Here’s some advice from someone who’s been where you are:
- Don’t send flowers. Flowers die. Not to mention, sometimes their smell is unpleasant to patients in treatment.
- Don’t ask for specifics about what your friend needs. Just do it. Your friend has to answer questions and make decisions all day.
- Don’t make assumptions. “He has a great support system.” “I’m sure she has everything she needs.” Wrong. There is never too much support, too much love or too much encouragement.
- Don’t expect a quick response. You’ve texted, you’ve emailed and you haven’t heard back. It’s not about you. Your friend is distracted, to say the least. But your message didn’t go unnoticed.
- Think about the immediate family. Does the patient have children? Offer to take over carpooling or offer free babysitting. If you live far away and can’t help with the day-to-day to-dos, send the kids a small care package just for them, with items that will entertain them.
- Send unscented skin care products. Treatment often dehydrates the skin, and senses are typically sensitive during this time.
- Laugh with your friend. Whether that’s recalling a funny childhood memory or sending her a Dammit Doll for when she wants to yell and hit the wall, a smile is just what the doctor ordered.
- Send courage at every age. Just like adults, young patients need strength and courage to get through a diagnosis and treatment. Board games and other activities will always be appreciated, but don’t be afraid to express your support in a way that is unique and uplifting.
- Pick up the phone. A simple conversation will get their mind off of their diagnosis and remind them that you are there.
- Seek out feel-better essentials. Your friend is starting treatment. Will he be nauseous? Will she lose her hair? A few essentials will put your friend at ease as the start of treatment becomes a reality.
Even in the quietest times of the day, a cancer diagnosis never goes away. Your encouragement is what will help your loved one get through the toughest of times.