Finding out that someone you know has cancer can be upsetting can it can be very hard to know how to react.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 I had a wide variety of responses from people who were close to me. One person even said
I wish you hadn’t told me
And it was very hard to know how to respond to this.
It is understandable that people do not know what to do or say when confronted with someone who has a cancer diagnosis. It is important to remember that that person is the same person they were before the diagnosis and they may need your help. Here is some practical advice for how you might help.
1. Talk to your friend with cancer and remember to listen
When finding out someone has a cancer diagnosis it can be so easy to avoid them or avoid the subject. This happens a lot. Its is very important not to avoid your friend. Not only is when they may need you most, but it may also be that others have started to act strangely around them. If you are not sure what to say or even whether they want to talk about it, let them take the lead. If they want to talk they will and you need to be a good listener. Some may want to talk about everything, some might not want to talk about it at all. There is no right or wrong way for a cancer patient to behave and no right or wrong way for you to behave, as long as you are there for them. Even if you say that you don’t know what to say, that is better than avoiding them.
2. Give your friend with cancer your time and offer to help in specific ways
If you say, “I am here if you need me” or “let me know if you need any help” (as many people do) this could be viewed as an insincere offer of help (no matter how much you mean it) and it is often hard for someone to ask. One of the best things you can do in these circumstances is to make solid offers of help such as “what meals can I make for you?” or “when can I drive you to the hospital?”
3. Remember their family and responsibilities.
Often the person who has cancer has responsibilities to their family, so when you offer to help with the family regular chores you could be taking a lot of stress away. Simply asking how a partner or child of someone with cancer is can show you are supporting the whole family which may be needed
The important thing to remember is that this person has not changed but their circumstances have. They have been thrown into a situation where they are maybe overwhelmed with appointments and not sure of their own future. They have worries about their loved ones and about their own mortality. If you can help in any small way or just be there to listen it might make a massive difference to their lives.