When facing cancer, most people today are treated in an outpatient setting. This means they will not need to be in a hospital setting to receive the care they need. Still, they will need plenty of encouragement, support and help in their home life.
Studies have shown that cancer survivors that enjoy a high level of emotional support during their ordeal tend to fare better and adapt to the challenges of cancer recovery, enjoy a better quality of life and have a more positive outlook on their situation. These same studies have also shown that friends play an important role in providing this emotional support.
If you have a friend suffering from cancer there is much you can do to make a big difference in their life. Of course, everyone with a friend suffering from cancer wants to be supportive, but not everyone knows exactly what to do.
The most important thing to do will be to spend time with this person and understand that the situation will be changing as their treatment continues. Taking the time to adjust your help to meet their needs is the best way to show your friendship and support during this time. Here are a few ideas from the Cancer Council that can be helpful at this time.
What you can do: Notes and calls
Take the time to make your friend know how important they are. You can show your support during this time by letting them know that despite the changes they are facing you are still at their side to offer friendship and support.
Take the time to send notes, texts and call them often simply to let them know you are on their mind. You should never be ashamed to send funny photos, childish drawings and cartoons that make them feel loved and cared for.
End your notes and phone calls with a reminder that you “will be in touch” soon.
Call at times that you know your friends will be able to accept the call and make arrangements for when they can call you.
Return messages right away.
Take the time to check in regularly with their regular caregiver and see if there is anything else they may need.
What you can do: Visits
Cancer can make anyone suffering this debilitating condition feel very alone. Help beat back this isolation by offering a welcome distraction from the condition and treatments and allow them to feel as they did before the cancer even occurred.
Make sure you call before dropping by. This will show that you are an understanding friend and care about their emotional well-being.
Take the time to see what physical, emotional and mental support you can be to their caregiver as well. Maybe you can offer to stick around for a few hours, cook a meal, watch a movie and give their caregiver a break.
It is better to make many short frequent visits than long and sporadic visits. Remember that your friend may not even feel like talking, but probably don’t want to be alone either.
Begin your visitation with physical contact. Give a hug, handshake or touch on the arm.
Be sympathetic and understanding if the family or caregiver asks you to leave.
Before you go, refer to your next visit in some ways so that your friend has something to look forward to.
Offer to bring a snack or some treat as long as it doesn’t interfere with the caregiver’s care.
Try to choose times that are not weekends and holidays to visit. These times may be high traffic visitations times. A cancer patient can begin to feel the days are all the same when house-bound. To them, a Tuesday morning can seem just as lonely as a Saturday night.
Bring your needlework, book, or crossword puzzles and spend time in their company while they relax, watch movies or doze off.
Take an interest in the music they like, their favorite TV shows and even watch their favorite movie with them – more than once.
Read sections of the newspaper or your favorite book, look for topics online that you know will interest them and summarize for your friend.
Offer to take a short walk to the nearby park if your friend is feeling up to it.
Never be afraid to touch, cuddle or hug you friend.
What you can do: Conversation
Many people are most concerned about what to say to their friend with cancer. The important thing to remember here is that you are there to listen. Try to take the time to hear what they say and understand what they are going through. Let them know that you are there to listen primarily and talk if they’d like. But, also let them know that if they don’t want to talk you are fine with that as well.
Follow the conversation the way your friend leads. If they are not pressured to respond or they will not feel overwhelmed or guilty.
Talk about the topics your friend likes. If they want to talk about travels, theatre, pet owls, religion or sports, so be it.
Ask about how they are feeling and what you can do to make them more comfortable. Suggest new ways and things they can do to be more comfortable.
Give them honest compliments like “you look like you are resting well.”
Support the feelings your friend is facing. Let them be negative, despondent, silent or withdrawn to their heart’s content and never try to change the subject.
Don’t urge or encourage them to fight the disease as this can make them feel depressed and despondent.
Do not tell them how strong they are as they may feel the need to act strong in front of you.
Be sure to include your friend when having a conversation with other people in the room.
Don’t offer medical advice and diet plans.
Don’t ever berate them for things they may have done in their past that were less than healthy.
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