You talk to your best friend about everything—big things, little things and anything in between. But when they receive a cancer diagnosis, you may be at a loss for words. Cancer isn’t just impacting your friend’s life, but it affects yours as well. Cancer can create big changes in the dynamic of your friendship, and it’s common to feel unsure of how you should react. You want to help and support your friend in any way possible, but you don’t want to overstep your bounds. Though no two people or cancer journeys are alike, there are ways you can support and empower your friend throughout the cancer experience that will not only ease their burden, but will help you as well.
- Be available. Your friend may not always want you to visit, but you can still make yourself available for days when they are feeling well enough for visitors or would like some company. In the meantime, there are still things you can do to be present for your friend, like bringing meals, helping with childcare or running errands. You can also send little notes or gifts to your friend so they know you’re thinking of them, even when you can’t be there.
- Ask questions. When your friend has cancer you may not know what to expect or what this will mean for the future. Don’t be afraid to ask your friend questions. They may not always have the answers, but will they most likely be grateful that you have an interest in their diagnosis and treatment. Try to routinely to ask your friend if they feel like talking about anything. They may not always feel up to talking, but your support will be appreciated. Don’t be afraid to ask your friend what they specifically need. Sometimes friends and family are so willing to step in and help that they forget to ask what is truly needed by the patient in that moment.
- Act normal. Just because cancer has changed the dynamic of the friendship doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself around your friend anymore. It’s ok to still talk about the same things you did before cancer, and your friend may appreciate the opportunity to talk about something other than cancer for a change! Your friend will most likely be relieved that your relationship is still as good as ever.
- Create a support team. Your friend will be grateful for any kind of support from you during their cancer experience. But, you don’t have to do it alone. Get in touch with your friend’s family to see if they need anything, and reach out to any shared friends or to the community to make sure your friend has plenty of support and available resources.
If you or your friend ever have any questions or concerns, feel free to call the Cancer Support Helpline, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. ET. And, for more tips and resources on being a caregiver, check out Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Ten Tips for Caregivers.