Another friend was diagnosed with cancer. The news devastated us all. I flailed around, not sure how to best help this particular friend.
How do you show you care?
Here are my thoughts on the matter.
Be a sounding board. The best thing a friend can do is sit and listen. Sometimes just the companionship is enough. Other times, listening is the trick. This is not the time to ramble on and on about every person you ever knew who had cancer; this is the time to use your ears.
The affirmative power of touch. Cancer patients often feel sick, so it’s important to ask about touching before you go barging in and bestowing big hugs. A pat on the arm or the shoulder is a good way to show you still consider this person a valued friend or family member. Let them direct how much touch they’d like to have from you.
Bring a gift. A new set of sleeping apparel (nightgown/pajamas) is a nice gesture. So is a specialty pillow or slippers. Avoid highly scented items like flowers and candles, which may aggravate nausea. Perhaps a thick robe, a shawl, or stylish headwear would also be welcomed. Books, movies, and music are a welcome diversion.
Meals. Your friend with cancer will have specific meal requirements. Find out what they are. Provide what works for you. Remember that the caretaker needs to eat too. Don’t forget if you volunteer to do this!
Practical help. Lending a hand is easy. You can cut the lawn, weed the flower beds, vacuum, do the laundry, clean the bathrooms, or whatever help is needed.
Bill-paying. Your friend may need help paying bills. It may be as simple as doing everything but signing their checks for them. Or spearhead a community drive to help provide financial assistance.
Driving and errands. Many cancer patients require daily radiation treatments. If you can provide respite for their caregiver, that’s a help. A gas card is a help. Running errands, like grocery shopping, is also helpful.
Know when to stay away. If your friend prefers solitude, respect his/her wishes. A weekly card, a brief phone call, or a text message are a way to reach out to them.
Conversation. Don’t shy away from hard topics or sadness, but remember to also ask about your friend’s interests. Talk about the future. Allow the cancer patient to focus on something other than this illness.
Be consistent. Follow-through with commitments you make to your friend.
Those are my thoughts on helping friends with cancer. Please share your thoughts on how you’ve helped someone, or how someone has helped you.
tackling another one of life's mysteries