- Posted by jdavis on June 13, 2011
How can I be supportive?
Remember that the person you know with cancer may find it hard to ask for help or may seem vulnerable. Telling a person, “You’re so brave,” or “You’re so strong,” can put pressure on them to be strong when they may not feel up to it. Families can put subtle pressure on people with cancer by expecting or needing them to be strong all the time. In that case, you might play an important role for a friend who has cancer. He or she may know you well and trust you enough to confide in you, yet you don’t have the emotional attachment and expectations of a family member. This kind of relationship can be a great gift for a person facing cancer.
It’s human nature to distance yourself from someone when they become ill. Cancer forces us to confront our own fears about illness, weakness, or death. This may make us reluctant to interact with the affected person. But isolation can be a problem for people with cancer. Make an extra effort to reach out.
If your friend needs medical equipment or money for treatment, you can look into getting something donated or organize a raffle to help raise money. Or you can simply take up a collection to buy something that might not be covered by insurance.
The person with cancer may look to you for advice regarding financial worries, work issues, or other concerns. Be honest. Help if you can, but if you feel uncomfortable, say so. There are many places a person can get help and support, and you might suggest seeking the advice of a professional who is best suited to give that kind of guidance.
What are some concrete ways I can help?
- Communication is the key. Continue to treat your friend as normally as possible. Don’t feel that you always have to talk about cancer. Include them in activities and social events. If they aren’t up to doing something, let them be the one to make the decision to decline. Keep inviting them unless they tell you otherwise. Ask what they could use; let them tell you what would be most helpful. Offer to help in specific ways, rather than saying, “Call me if I can help.”
- Prepare a meal. Ask the family what they want to eat and arrange a schedule of meal delivery.
- Offer to help with child care. Arrange a schedule of day care pick-ups.
- Offer a ride to and from treatment appointments.
- Help run errands.
- Offer to take phone calls if your friend is feeling tired and needs to rest.
- Coordinate visits by groups, or coordinate sending cards, flowers, or gifts.
- Honor your friend by making contributions to related charities, organizing blood drives, or making special efforts in his or her name.
- Offer to do some research on their unanswered questions about cancer.
- If the person agrees, plan a party when treatment is finished or on anniversary dates. Always check with the person with cancer before making party plans.
What if the cancer returns?
In some cases, the cancer will come back (recur) and treatment will begin again. The person with cancer may or may not react in the same way they did the first time. Again, communication is the key. Many people are quite upset upon learning they have a recurrence. They may feel they don’t have the emotional or physical reserves to fight the battle again. Others seem to accept a recurrence more easily. They may have expected it or are simply ready, for whatever reasons, to fight again. By equipping yourself with the knowledge of how best to talk to the person with cancer, you can be most helpful to them.