Offering Support to someone with cancer

friends 5The greatest gift you can offer is just being there.

Being there to listen and being there to just hang out. Sometimes a person going through cancer or any other serious or difficult life circumstance just wants to talk about what is going on. They don’t necessarily even need or want any feedback. They just want to talk and get it out. Sometimes they just want to be with someone who cares and not have to talk about it at all. You will never be able to guess which place they are in so don’t try. Just be a friend and be there. This is probably the sweetest gift you can give.

It is often awkward at first to know what to say or do, but once you get together the first time the awkwardness will pass. You will be comfortable with each other. If you have questions ask them but always give your friend the option of not having to answer. Let them know that you care and want to know but you don’t want them to talk about anything that makes them uncomfortable. You will soon find a comfortable rhythm to this new place together and it will be a huge blessing to your friend and to you.

Being there does not always have to be in person, although in person is always nice. Being there can be a phone call, an email, a card, even a text. Anyway you can stay in contact and show you care is being there.

Unfortunately, when someone is diagnosed with a serious illness, many people drift away. I think they often have good intentions but just don’t know what to do or say that first time. So it doesn’t happen. Then time passes and it becomes all the more awkward and next thing you know the person with cancer has lost many close relationships. Don’t be one of those lost relationships. Get together that first time and be a dear friend.

I just covered the biggest DO – Do be a friend. Just BE THERE

The biggest don’ts:

Don’t say things just to have something to say.

When someone tells you they have been diagnosed with cancer don’t start telling them about your experience or your great Aunt Sally’s experience. This is not about YOU or YOUR Aunt Sally. You just had a friend share with you that they have been diagnosed with a serious illness. They are likely scared, not just of the illness but of everything it can mean. Stop yourself before you talk. Then a simple, “I am sorry, is there anything I can do?” is a good response. If this is a friend you would generally hug then give a hug.  That’s it. Really.

Don’t dismiss or devalue their feelings or choices.

For example, when someone with cancer confides in you that they are afraid they may die, don’t dismiss it by saying something like, “You will be fine, don’t worry.” You don’t know if they will be fine. And they just confided in you a deep fear. Validate them and let them have a safe place to share.

Do not make judgments on their choices for treatment.

If they choose chemo therapy support them. If they choose to forgo a traditional treatment in lieu of a less traditional approach, support them. It is not your choice. I have had friends on both sides of this, some who went all traditional therapy and did not even entertain the idea of any lifestyle changes, some that went with traditional therapy along with complementary holistic therapies and some that went for no traditional treatments whatsoever and used only a holistic approach. Ironically no matter which choice they made, they all had this in common: All have shared with me that they OFTEN had people tell them that their choice was wrong. I don’t know how else to say this. It is none of your business! I know you care about the person. I know you want what is best for them, or at least what you think is best for them. It is not up to you. SUPPORT THEM no matter what choice they make for treatment.

Don’t make comparisons.

If your friend or loved one is struggling with fatigue don’t tell him/her about your neighbor who worked straight through therapy, raised 6 kids, and built an addition on her house. Remember, everyone and every experience is different. Instead, ask how you can help.

The truth is that to cover all the Dos and DON’Ts I could simply say, be a compassionate listener and remember, “Less is more” when it comes to your response.

Some Practical Ways You Can Offer Help:

    • Ask what kind of help your friend or loved one needsfriends 6
    • Offer specific help because your friend or loved one may not be able to think of something or they don’t want to ask specifically
    • Call on the way to the store and see if you can pick anything up for your friend or loved one
    • Bring a meal for your friend or for their family
    • Offer to watch their children
    • Accompany them to the grocery store, hardware store or doctor’s appointment
    • Help organize friends or relatives to bring meals
    • Send a nice card
    • Invite them, continue to treat them like you always have, but also let them know you understand if, even at the last minute, they decide not to come.
    • Support their care givers. Often when someone is dealing with a serious illness they feel like they are a burden to those around them. Do something to support their main care giver. A nice card, a meal, a “time off” while you step in.
    • Give a little gift that let’s them know you are thinking of them.
    • IMG_0601I had one friend make me a beautiful bracelet. I wore it all through my illness and treatment and still wear it nearly every day today. It reminded me of her love :)
    • I had another friend give me a Willow Angel (the one for courage) and it is still sitting in a prominent place in our home.

Willow Tree Courage

  • IMG_5001The ladies from our church made me a beautiful quilt. I took it with me and used it at every treatment. I know it was made with love and prayers.
  • Give a fun, silly gift. Life can be pretty intense when someone is dealing with a serious illness. Take a look at this fun gift that a dear friend brought to me after I was diagnosed. It still makes me smile.



Some of the items were quite practical. Some were just for fun to bring a smile to my face. Some said I care about you. And then notice the music CD. My friend BeckyJo made this special for me with music that would sooth my soul. It became a constant companion. Music can be like a healing salve.

Please take the time to share your ideas in the comment section below



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