Finding out your friend has cancer is a difficult and tricky situation to handle, knowing what to do and how to act around them is hard and confusing. You want to be supportive but you don’t want to smother them. I’m lucky to be able to say that I’ve got little experience of this as I am yet to have a friend with cancer but hope I can give a little advice from the other side of the story. Sadly, with 352,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in 2013 and predictions that by 2020 nearly half of the UK population will have cancer during their life time, it’s a beast that will touch everyone’s life at some point.
Anyway enough of the depressing statistics, here’s my advice on how to help a friend with cancer.
- Don’t Send Flowers!!
I love flowers and was so touched by how many people thought of me when I was diagnosed with cancer and sent flowers to cheer me up, so please, please don’t be offended if you sent me a gorgeous bouquet. The only problem when everyone sends you flowers is that you end up running out of vases, your house begins to slightly resemble a funeral directors and your husband complains his hay fever is driving him mad. Instead of flowers send a sweetie box, lovely soft PJ’s, take around a yummy dinner (or buy one from M&S), a handwritten card or even a nice plant that won’t need a vase.
Here’s a fab gift site I recently discovered and had a little giggle www.dontbuyherflowers.com
2. Just Pop In…
When you’re ill, shattered or feeling pretty down about having cancer it’s easy to hide away and put people off visiting but actually a bit of company is exactly what you need to cheer you up and make you feel loved and supported. So find an excuse (real or made up) to drop by your pal’s house, take a card or some cake with you. Even if they are in bed or you only stay for half an hour, your buddy will be touched you made the effort. Don’t go every day or even every week but do try to have some face to face contact with them regularly though their treatment.
3. Offer some help
Now be prepared for a fight because if your friend is anything like me they are not used to accepting help. Don’t take no for an answer, don’t ask them, tell them what you are going to do to help make their life easier. The week after a chemotherapy session is when they will be struggling the most. Some of the great things people did and are doing for me are: looking after my kids and taking them out to give me peace, walking my dogs, doing my washing, cleaning my house and making or buying meals. All these things just make life a little bit easier and also will help take the pressure off your friends partner who is going through hell too.
4. Treat them like normal
Don’t feel like you need to act differently around your friend or treat them differently. Yes sometimes you’ll need to be a bit more supportive and sensitive than usual but don’t constantly give them the teary eyed, head tilt ‘fuck you’ve got cancer’ look. Some people will want to cry on your shoulder, others will do all their crying on their own. Its ok to be sad with them but make sure you’re not a mess and they don’t end up comforting you. Having cancer is all consuming and you need to talk about it but you definitely don’t want to talk about it all the time. I remember some of my friends apologising for moaning about the shit going on in their lives because I’m obviously having a much worse time. Please, please don’t do this, they want to hear about your stories and worries because they are still your friend and anything that takes their mind off their stupid cancer is what they need. So tell them about your kid’s random rash, moan about your annoying husband getting too drunk at the weekend, ask them for advice on your boring job and have a laugh with them, cos let’s face it if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry.
Most of all just be there for them right through and beyond their treatment, be the friend you’ve always been, be kind and caring and take the piss out of them the same way you always have!