It’s something that we hopefully don’t have to think about too much. Something that we don’t have a whole lot of experience with, so we don’t know exactly what to do when it happens. So, what should you do when one of your friends is diagnosed with cancer? Frankly, it’s hard to generalize this question, because all of our friends are different; however, there are certain things that are failproof, and that will allow for both you and your friend to be as comfortable as possible when dealing with a recent diagnosis. What follows are some ideas for showing support that may help:
- Before visiting, giving advice, and asking questions, ask if it is welcome. Be sure to make it clear that saying no is perfectly okay.
- Don’t be afraid to make plans for the future. Make flexible plans that are easy to change in case something comes up or your friend needs to cancel or reschedule. This gives your friend something to look forward to, especially with the sometimes long and drawn out cancer treatment.
- Talk about topics other than cancer. Laugh and be jovial. If the topic comes around, though, let it. And also allow for sadness. Do not ignore uncomfortable topics or feelings.
- Offer to help. This is huge. Many people find it hard to ask for help, however, your friend will likely appreciate the offer. You can offer to help with specific tasks, such as taking care of children, taking care of a pet, or preparing a meal. Remember, if your friend declines an offer, don’t take it personally.
- Treat them the same. Try not to let your friend’s condition get in the way of your friendship. As much as possible, treat him or her the same way you always have.
Above all, remember that friendship does make a difference.
Continuing friendships and regular activities after a cancer diagnosis is a great way to further the healing process. Don’t forget that friends also need encouragement and support after cancer treatment has finished. After treatment, your friend will be trying to find his or her "new normal" in this next phase of life. Friendships are an important part of that. With these practical suggestions in mind, your friendship can make a lasting difference to a person living with cancer.