If you have a friend who’s diagnosed with cancer, be sure you reach out with a phone call. Even though it may be uncomfortable for you, they probably want and need all the support they can get, especially during these uncertain times when they may feel more isolated than ever.
I speak from experience when writing about this subject. Near the end of 2019, a close friend of mine was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Even though I enjoy reading and blogging weekly about issues affecting people battling cancer, reaching out to my friend still felt uncomfortable. After days of reminding myself all that I’d learned and shared about the support people crave when fighting cancer, I decided to lead by example and get together with her. (Keep in mind this was last year, before the coronavirus hit.)
If you don’t know what to say to your friend, a simple “I’m here” helps. Let them know you’re available to talk when needed. Allow your friend to take the lead and set the course. They know what’s best for them and what they need at a given moment.
I followed this advice when I first got together with my friend after the cancer diagnosis. I waited until she introduced topics, then added my input to the conversation. The words developed naturally, just as they always had. It simply took some getting used to the new dynamics of the relationship. Knowing we may have had a limited amount of time to spend talking and participating in fun activities stayed in the back of my mind. I’ve since learned to focus on the discussion we’re participating in at the moment, nothing beyond that.
Be aware that providing words of encouragement to your friend may not be helpful. Especially after a recent diagnosis, it’s often more important that your friend deal with emotions they’re experiencing in the moment than think about things long term. They may prefer to have you listen and be present rather than optimistically say everything will work out. Or, your friend might desire to talk about what’s going on in your own life, throughout the world, and other topics that don’t involve doctors, treatments, side effects, and related issues. It often helps to focus on other subjects and put aside cancer for a while.
I kept this in mind when my friend and I started getting together after the cancer diagnosis. I focused on listening to what she was saying more than what I said in response. Now that things are heading in a more positive direction with her health, our conversations have evolved to focus on the future as well as what’s happening now. We’ve talked about places to go and activities to take part in down the road.
Unless your friend asks for your input, avoid offering opinions and advice on anything related to cancer. This is especially true if you haven’t fought the disease yourself. Deciding whether and how to proceed with treatment is an individual choice. Your friend probably will take into consideration their medical team’s information and guidance, but final decisions are up to the person.
Since my dear friend was diagnosed with cancer and I’ve been reaching out, our relationship has deepened. We communicate almost daily. We tell each other all the time how much our connectedness has made a difference in each of our lives. I see us remaining close throughout the rest of our time together.
If you or someone you know has cancer, reach out to Chix 4 a Cause. We provide short-term financial and long-term emotional support to people battling cancer. Find out more about our Gifts of Love program at chix4acause.org today.