By Greer Barnes
When a woman finds out she has cancer, the news can be heartbreaking. A roller coaster of fear, anxiety, and sadness can overwhelm her both physically and emotionally. Her friends and family, however, face their own dilemma regarding the situation. How can I help? Do I stay close or give her space? What does she really need?
According to Breastcancer.org, one in eight American women will endure invasive breast cancer at some point in her life. Women who have this form of cancer undoubtedly have touched and inspired others during their lifetime, so when the diagnosis comes, it not only affects the victim but her family and friends as well. The matter begs the question: What is the appropriate behavior when trying to help a friend who has cancer? True, everyone handles sickness differently, but there are a few ways loved ones can help ease their friend’s stress during that difficult time.
Do Stay In Touch
Now, perhaps more than ever, your friend needs the support of loved ones. Call, email, or text, but keep the conversation and messages short. Cancer patients feel different day to day. Some days your friend will feel like chatting up a storm, and other days she’ll want to be alone.
Do Always Be Available
Though your friend may not want to talk when it’s convenient for you, you should always be on call for her. If she wants to vent about her current situation, allow her to do that. If she is staying silent but wants to talk, steer the conversation toward subjects she enjoys.
Don’t Offer Advice About Treatment
If your friend wants to talk about her treatment, let her, but stick to listening instead of offering your two cents. “When I was in decision-making mode, it’s all I could think or talk about. My friend listened to me over and over again,” says Victoria Irwin, who underwent a lumpectomy and radiation. “She didn’t give advice, but acknowledged the difficulty of the situation. That listening was the most helpful thing she could have done.”
Don’t Bring Dinner Without Asking
Though cooking dinner certainly seems like a kind gesture, sometimes cancer patients, especially those going through chemotherapy treatments, follow diets. In fact, taste buds are often altered during treatment, so what you may think is a delicious chicken casserole may actually taste very salty. Instead, ask your friend what groceries she needs and get those instead.
Do Help Your Friend’s Caretaker
The person taking care of your friend’s needs is undoubtedly dealing with stress of her/his own. “Often caregivers neglect themselves because they are so busy taking care of their loved one.” Offer to stay with your friend so the caretaker can get a break or run personal errands so she/he has one less thing to worry about.
Don’t Be Afraid of Physical Contact
The best gift you can offer your friend is love and support through normalcy. That doesn’t mean you should pretend like she doesn’t have cancer; simply let your friend know that she is the same woman she was before her diagnosis. If you have always greeted your friend with a hug, don’t stop. If you’ve held her hand during tough times before, do the same now. Your friend needs you now more than ever. Show your love and support to the best of your ability.