How To Be There For A Friend With Cancer

Nearly 40% of people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes. When faced with the terrible news that a friend has cancer, there are some things you can do (and should not do) to stay positive for your friend during their time of need.

DO:

  • Offer to lend a hand. Daily tasks can be overwhelming for people who are sick. Ask your friend what they need help with and if they don’t know, you could suggest grocery shopping, cleaning, picking up or dropping off kids, or mowing the lawn. Pick anything you can do to lighten their load.
  • Ask if they’d like to talk. People with cancer often want to talk about anything but their diagnosis, while others are frustrated that people around them avoid the topic. Try to just be a friend who can be a supportive listener with whatever is on their mind.
  • Ask permission to visit. When someone is sick, they may not want visitors, so it’s important to ask beforehand when you should visit and be prepared for them to say, “not right now.” Remember, it isn’t personal.
  • Support other caregivers. Perhaps their spouse or partner needs a break. Ask how you can support them, too.

DON’T

  • Avoid your friend. It may be difficult to face your friend but avoiding them could cause more pain. Take time to process the news, but also be mindful that they may need you. You might have to put your feelings to the side and put theirs first to support them during this tough period.
  • Tell them everything is going to be OK. Offering false platitudes may make you feel better, but you can’t offer something you don’t know. Stick with a supportive comment, like “We’ll get through this and I’ll be right by your side.”
  • Make comments that they don’t look sick. Avoid telling your friend that they’re looking fine. Remember, each cancer is different, and it manifests in different ways that may not be visible. Leave health comments to their doctor.