How to Support a Friend with Cancer
Over six years ago I wrote an article which talked about how someone could support a friend of loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer. I had just finished with breast reconstruction, after a mastectomy, and was released by the doctors. It was now time to get on with life! Never did I expect that three years later I would be diagnosed with another type of cancer.
So many I have known have stuck by my side, or many have been support to others who have faced a cancer diagnosis. These caregivers ride an emotional roller coaster along with the patient who has physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. Acting as a caregiver can be as challenging in some ways as that of the patient.
The best support is offered when the caregiver can do for the patient without attempting to control the situation. It does not work if the caregiver enters into an victim-hero relationship either.
Here are some ideas of ways to support others with cancer
Recognize their struggle. Well-meaning cheerleaders who want to keep things light and happy are certainly trying to do their part to keep a smile on your face. But smiley face buttons, and a recording of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" truly will do more to annoy than help! Sometimes we just need to acknowledge that the challenges and pain faced are tough.
Remember you are the friend, not the doctor. Avoid giving medical advice. What they need is for you to be a friend, a listener, a shoulder to cry on. And never think that Dr. McDreamy's patient from latest episode of "Grey's Anatomy" has any similarity to your friend's case!
Send a card. A real one. One that can be opened, touched, and read. It's time to go back to the olden days when we didn't have computers and e-cards. Spring for the postage stamp. The post office needs to stay in business, and your friend will appreciate the extra thought and time you took to pen a heartfelt note.
Call before you come over. And do not be offended if your friend does not want company at that moment. Surgeries and treatment have this ugly way of presenting themselves at the most inopportune of times, so do not just drop by unannounced. You might just find yourself getting that medical lesson on the disposal of hazardous medical waste that you were not ready to learn!
Make dinner and drop it off. This is a reminder that there ARE some free meals in this life! But do not invite yourself to dinner, just because you want to visit unless you are specifically asked to visit or share the meal. Drop it off and leave.
Be observant. Do not bombard your friend with questions about what help they might need. Chances are they will not give you an answer because they will be too embarrassed to ask you to wash their stinky socks or clean the bathroom! So, if you see that something needs done, be nonchalant about doing it. Pick up the overflowing laundry basket and let them know you will be back with it clean and folded tomorrow. It might even be eye-opening for you that you are not the only one who wears granny panties!
Offer to run errands. If you are going to the market, then call your friend and offer to pick up milk or eggs. Ask if there are any prescriptions to be dropped off at the pharmacy, or video rentals returned. Remember to revert back to the "call first" rule, or you may just have the videos thrown at you, even though you are trying to be helpful.
Don't forget the family. Family members who act as caregivers do not have a choice, but to deal with what is going on with your friend. They may be a spouse who still has to work, or children who are going to school. Each of them is concerned about their loved one, and the stress is doubled trying to take care of someone and still manage their own lives. Help to alleviate some of their stresses by offering to act as chauffeur to soccer practice, or medical appointments. Invite the kids to a movie when you take your own. Don a silly costume, buy some goofy glasses and hats, and when you pick them up, everyone gets their own to wear to the pizza place. Laughter will help make facing the challenges easier.
Whatever you do for someone going through the challenge of cancer will be appreciated as long as you do it with love, respect, and mindfulness. Being aware of these things will make your friendship, time, and efforts welcomed and treasured gifts.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
© Copyright 2015- Coral Levang - All Rights Reserved
Original written and published on Yahoo! Voices in 2009. Republished May 22, 2013 on Bubblews, but later removed by author. Adapted and resubmitted here at Persona Paper.
Coins: 4737, $7.11, 35%
Image Credit » https://pixabay.com/en/girls-friendship-love-beauty-smile-846992/ by AdinaVoicu