How to Support a Friend With Cancer

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Ways to Help Someone Who Receives a Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer: It's a word you hope to never hear from someone in your life. So what do you do when a friend finds out she has cancer? It's not always easy to know how you should support her. Everyone is different in how they handle the diagnosis, but continuing to be a supportive friend and helping out when you can show that you're there.

Lend an Ear

Sometimes, just talking is what your friend needs most. You don't need all the answers. It's perfectly OK to admit you don't know what to say. Let your friend lead the conversation. You can pick up on how your friend is feeling about the situation and what he wants to hear just by noticing the little details.

Don't feel as if you have to fix things for your friend. He may just need to vent or feel sad. Keep the conversation positive, but let your friend express feelings, even if they're negative. If you try to change the subject, your friend may feel as if you don't care. It's also important to be careful about offering medical advice or suggesting that something your friend did in the past might have caused cancer, which can upset him. Your conversations don't always have to relate to the cancer diagnosis. Talking to your friend as you always do helps him feel a little normal and reminds him you're still friends.

Run Errands

Your friend has a lot to handle right now, and she may feel exhausted, sick or weak once treatment starts. Suddenly, everyday activities such as cleaning the house and shopping for groceries don't seem so important. Other family members are likely busy with appointments and caregiving, so everyone can use a hand with the errands.

Help your friend by handling those little things for her. If you don't feel comfortable cleaning or shopping for her, consider hiring a service. You can pay for a weekly cleaning service or give her a gift card to a local grocery store that offers delivery. Other errands you can do include taking her kids to school, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, caring for pets, picking up prescriptions, cooking meals and returning library books. If she has a blog or other website to share information about her progress, offer to add updates to it for her.

Offer Child Care Services

If your friend is a parent, offer your babysitting services to help out the family. Parents often have doctors' appointments, treatments and decisions to make. If the kids are young, the parents may need someone to watch them during those appointments. Your friend may not have the energy to do much with the kids, so taking them for a little fun gives everyone a break. The kids get to feel normal for a little while, and the parents can focus on things they need to do.

Give Gifts

Little things brighten up your friend's day. Offer up small gifts to make your friend feel comfortable or to bring a smile to his face. Food gifts are popular. Your friend needs to keep up his energy, so healthy snacks are a good option. Just keep in mind he may not have a good appetite, so don't be offended if he passes on your snacks.

Other gift ideas include:

  • Gift certificates
  • Magazines or books
  • Puzzles
  • Soft socks
  • A robe or warm blanket
  • A heating pad
  • Supplies for a hobby, such as yarn for a friend who crochets

Stick With Your Friend

An initial cancer diagnosis often brings lots of support from friends and family, but sometimes, the support drops off as the weeks and months pass. You're a busy parent yourself, but don't forget to check in with your friend regularly. She may start feeling lonely or forgotten if the support dries up over time. If you can't always visit, send a quick text message or mail a card to let her know you're still in her corner.