Finding out from someone else that a mutual friend has cancer brings up a variety of emotions. Surprise, sadness, frustration and anger are common. Although you probably want to do something, you may not know how to proceed. The thought of someone having cancer may make you uncomfortable. You might be unsure whether you should do anything. Rest assured that you should reach out to your friend. Here are some suggestions to approach the situation.
THINGS TO AVOID:
Avoid saying “I know you’ll be fine.” Nobody knows whether your friend will be fine. The beginning of a journey with cancer is scary, anxiety-ridden and full of uncertain outcomes.
Avoid saying, “I knew someone who had that type of cancer and they’re fine.” Odds are that person didn’t have the exact same diagnosis or treatment. Don’t share this information in the beginning. It may be more appropriate down the road.
THINGS TO KNOW:
Know that your friend with cancer will be glad to hear from you. Share with them how you received the news and that you’ve been thinking of them ever since. Most people with cancer will be open about what’s going on. Contact from caring friends who provide a sympathetic ear is helpful.
You might begin by asking your friend how they found out about having cancer. Perhaps it was through a routine medical exam, something unusual or suspicious that caused them to consult a doctor, concerns over family history or something else.
Once you’ve started a conversation, other subjects should come up naturally. You could inquire, “What sort of treatment is planned?” “Where will you be going for treatment?” “When will your treatment begin?” “Will you be missing work?” Or, “How’s your family doing?”
Offer specific ways to help. For instance, “I can drive you to an appointment.” “I can sit with you during chemotherapy.” “When you’re off work, I’d love to get together for lunch.” Or, “Let me know when a good time to visit might be.” Although these offers may not be accepted, they’ll be appreciated.
The more you talk, the easier it’ll be. When your friend is ready, you can move to topics unrelated to cancer. There’s more to life than cancer. Staying interested in other parts of life show your friend isn’t letting the disease define their life.
Promise to soon check in with your friend and plan a social activity. Seeing a movie, going out to lunch, shopping or participating in another fun activity will get their mind off cancer. Stay flexible with the timing, as your friend may be too tired when the planned activity comes.
If you or someone you know is battling cancer, contact Chix 4 a Cause. Learn more about our Gifts of Love program at chix4acause.org today.