At some point in many people’s lives, they will find out a loved one—be it a family member or good friend—has cancer. Yet at the same time, many of us are unfamiliar with how to appropriately handle hearing that diagnosis. While each situation is different and you will also be dealing with your own emotions, here are five ways to show your love and support through a difficult time.
Be their advocate. Being diagnosed with cancer is overwhelming and hard to grasp. It can be too much for one person to handle alone, so become your friend’s advocate. Share the huge stress of understanding and registering what doctors are saying by going with them to important appointments, taking notes and asking questions. And if you can, continue to research and educate yourself on the current situation, medications, next steps and other healthcare options.
Organize a community. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, many people want to help but don’t always know how. This can often lead to 65 casseroles in your friend’s freezer. Great intentions, but perhaps there’s a more effective way to organize aide. Create an online calendar, assigning one person to meals for a week, scheduling volunteers for babysitting and running errands, and creating a Paypal account where friends can donate to the family, allowing them to spend however best for them at that time (hospital bills, gas, groceries, etc.).
Keep them smiling. A positive outlook can play a big part in healing. It can also help your friend take his or her mind off of the fight, even for a little while. As a companion, you play a huge role in keeping spirits up. A funny book (Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants is bound to bring on some chuckles), a TV series to stream or on DVD (The Office and Friends still have us laughing), and sweet messages, videos and photos are great ways to bring on a smile. (It’s important to note that allowing your friend to feel sadness is also part of the process, so don’t expect to always see a smile.)
Ask what they need. Many times, friends and family jump to help without truly asking what is needed. One young mom we spoke to pointed out that her kids like her cooking, so, as much as she appreciated her friends dropping off meals, it was more helpful to her family if they ran to the grocery store for her. Preferences certainly vary, so don’t hesitate to ask what your friend would prefer.
Don’t change. When one is diagnosed with cancer, they often lose their sense of normalcy. So, above all else, maintain the same level of connection and relationship you’ve always had. Shower them with love. Don’t disappear. Talk with them as you always did and don’t sensor yourself. Tell them how much you love them, what’s new in your life, ask for their advice and be by their side.