Almost everyone knows someone who either has or had cancer, or has a family member who was diagnosed with it. If you have a friend who learned that her spouse has cancer, you might not know what to say and as such, decide to simply avoid the issue all together, according to the Caring.com website. However, it's essential to keep in mind that your friend might really need your support during such a difficult time.
Your Honest Feelings
Let your friend know that you care about her and her husband and that you wish they were experiencing something more pleasant. You might say, “I’m sorry this is happening to you” or “I just wanted to say that I care.” You could also let your friend know that you hope that their medical team can successfully see them through the experience and into remission or a cure. Avoid saying that you know God has a purpose for this or that you know what your friend is going through, even if your spouse had cancer.
Offers of Assistance
Your friend probably doesn’t have the time or energy to take care of everything in her life, so offer a helping hand. Ask if you can run errands, water plants, walk the dog or take the kids on an outing, suggests the Cancer.net website. If your friend seems overwhelmed, ask if she would like to talk and offer an attentive ear. If she's spending long hours at her husband's bedside and hasn't eaten or needs a change of clothes, deliver her favorite take-out with a cheery smile and say, “I brought you something to keep your strength up” and “Would you like me to sit with him while you get a shower and a change of clothes?" If there are family members at home, offer to drop a meal by the house to help meet their needs as well.
Words of Encouragement
Encourage your friend with words of hope, such as “That cancer won’t defeat your husband,” according to a 2007 article in "Women's Health Magazine.” Let her know that what she's doing is admirable by saying something like, “He is so lucky to have you by his side.” If both you and she have strong faiths, let her know that you are praying for her.
Nonverbal messages can also get your message across, American Cancer Society website. Gestures can be very communicative if you are afraid you might cry or choke up. Give your friend a hug or sit beside her and hold her hand. Smile and give her a thumbs up. Offer a high five when test results reveal good news or the doctors say that things are looking up.
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Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.