When someone is given the terrible news they have cancer it can be devastating. If this happens to a friend or relative, how can you help? What should you say (or not say)?
Here is some guidance.
Be there for them. To hold a hand, go with them to an appointment, make a cuppa, cook dinner, go for a walk. Normal stuff. (Top of list)
Ask what you can do to help. But don't expect to get answer... Your friend will be overwhelmed with their diagnosis and making decisions is difficult. (Top of list)
Keep offering help. One day your friend will let you in. Offer things that you think will help, but only those you can do. If going to a hospital appointment is not for you, don't offer. (Top of list)
Make plans, but have a Plan B. Sometimes your friend won't feel up to it, or won't stay for long. One of the biggest side-effects of any treatment is fatigue. (Top of list)
Don't assume your friend can do whatever it is. Always ask. On this journey, your friend controls very little, so the few things they can control are very important. (Top of list)
Your friend may have compromised immunity. Stay away if you've got a cold or bug, especially symptoms that could be COVID. Use chat or Facetime, or similar. But tell them why your doing that. (Top of list)
Be mindful of posting stuff on Facebook. Not everyone wants the world to know they are having treatment or their new appearance plastered over social media. (Top of list)
Flowers are a lovely gift, but... They may already have lots. Smellies are a good alternative, or plan a meal out, or some other entertainment they like. (Top of list)
Be ready to listen. Your friend might want to talk about what is happening to them. Asking questions shows you are concerned. (Top of list)
Check on your friend's partner. They are often the caregiver and can get stressed out too. Ask them how they are. (Top of list)
Ask your friend how much they have told others. Don't assume. Even with close family. (Top of list)
It's OK to get upset. Often there's an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that it's not you, and then you feel guilty. (Top of list)
Feel honoured if your friend cries in your presence. It means they feel safe to do so. (Top of list)
Be ready to talk about death. Your friend may not have a great prognosis, but they still have a life to live. Make it quality. Do mad stuff. Talk about it if they want to. Don't make promises you can't keep. (Top of list)
Be lead by your friend. Hold their hand and walk with them. You can't do it for them, but you can do it with them. (Top of list)
What to say...
"I don't know how to help, but I want to. Don't be afraid to tell me when you need a lift, a school run, Some shopping, a cuppa, some hoovering."
"I can't imagine how you feel, or what you are facing, but I'm sending you my love and positive thoughts."
"I'm here for the good, the bad and the ugly. For all of it."
"It's lovely to see you!"
And what not to say...
"How are you?"
"Bald really suits you. You have a good shaped head."
"I know how you feel."
And don't forget you can Contact us as well. Please make sure you have your friend's permission to discuss their situation with us if you are looking for us to provide help beyond advice - Data privacy still applies with cancer.
Copyright 2021 of Asociación Moira Dixon y Amigos contra el Cáncer. All rights reserved.