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How to Be a Friend to Someone With Cancer

Letter-to-My-Friend-with-Cancer

Friendship and cancer

Today, most people with cancer are treated in the outpatient setting – they don’t have to stay in the hospital. During this time they often need help, support, and encouragement.

Many studies have found that cancer survivors with strong emotional support tend to better adjust to the changes cancer brings to their lives, have a more positive outlook, and often report a better quality of life. Research has shown that people with cancer need support from friends. You can make a big difference in the life of someone with cancer.

As you spend time with your friend and learn more about how cancer is affecting their everyday life, keep your eyes open for other things you can offer. See how your friend responds to different activities, and know that the situation may change as treatment goes on. Tailoring your help to what they need and enjoy most is the best way to be a friend. Here we will give you some ideas about where to start.

What you can do: Notes and calls

Make sure your friend knows that they’re important to you. Show that you still care for your friend despite changes in what they can do or how they look.

  • Send brief, frequent notes or texts, or make short, regular calls. Include photos, kids’ drawings, silly cards, and cartoons.
  • Ask questions.
  • End the call or note with “I’ll be in touch soon,” and follow through.
  • Call at times that work best for your friend or set times for them to call you.
  • Return their messages right away.
  • Check in with the person who helps with their daily care (caregiver) to see what else they might need.

What you can do: Visits

Cancer can be very isolating. Try to spend time with your friend – you may be a welcome distraction and help them feel like they did before cancer became a major focus of their life.

  • Always call before you visit. Be understanding if your friend can’t see you at that time.
  • Schedule a visit that allows you to give physical and emotional support for the caregiver, too. Maybe you can arrange to stay with your friend while the caregiver gets out of the house for a couple of hours.
  • Make short, regular visits rather than long, infrequent ones. Understand that your friend might not want to talk, but they may not like being alone either.
  • Begin and end the visit with a touch, a hug, or a handshake.
  • Be understanding if the family asks you to leave.
  • Always refer to your next visit so your friend can look forward to it.
  • Offer to bring a snack or treat to share so your visit doesn’t impose on the caregiver.
  • Try to visit at times other than weekends or holidays, when others may visit. Time can seem the same to a house-bound patient. A Tuesday morning can be just as lonely as a Saturday night.
  • Take your own needlework, crossword puzzle, or book, and keep your friend company while they doze or watch TV.
  • Share music they enjoy, watch their favorite TV show, or watch a movie with your friend.
  • Read sections of a book or newspaper, or find topics of interest online and summarize them for your friend.
  • Offer to take a short walk with your friend if they are up to it.

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One comment

  1. I have had pancreatic cancer for over 3 years now. I find that I have very understanding family and friends-especially my 88 year old Dad-who is so sweet and thoughtful. But some people tend to draw away from you when you have a serious illness. However, I get a great deal of support from friends and acquaintances on Facebook and social media. One of my children lives about 4 hrs away, but I rarely get to see him or his family due to his job which includes frequent travel. But Thank God for FaceTime and texting and other social media!! Als, it’s best not to force yourself on anyone if they’re feeling bad, no matter the illness, but calls, texts, cards, notes, offers of help, all are welcome. You may be just what they need at the time!!

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