A close friend has been diagnosed with cancer. It is a bolt out of the blue for you; you are saddened and shocked as well. You would like to help your friend with words of comfort as well as concrete action but have no clue how to go about it. “What do I say to her?” is the question that is uppermost in your mind. You feel uncomfortable and even consider staying away from your friend just because you don’t know what the right thing to say or do would be. But please avoid such a course of action. Your friend needs you and indeed all the care and attention she can get.
Sorting out your own feelings and coming to terms with the situation would be a good way to start. Give some time for your feelings to settle and clear your head. Next, give your friend a call and avoid popping in for an impromptu visit. Find out if she is okay with you dropping in. If she is not, don’t take it personally. Be understanding and let her know that if she ever needs help, you are always there for her.
Avoid making statements which imply that you understand her situation because unless you have been in a similar predicament yourself, you have no idea what she is going through. Be comforting but avoid giving false hope. Stories of other cancer patients are also best avoided. Sometimes when words seem inadequate, a warm hug goes a long way in comforting a person.
Cancer treatment is going to change your friend’s physical appearance. It is upsetting for you and unnerving for your friend as she wonders how people will react to the way she now looks. In such a scenario, it is best to let your friend take the lead on how to handle the situation. If she wants to talk about it, listen to her; if she is not inclined towards discussing it, let it go.
Offer to help out your friend with daily chores that she is unable to perform herself. A group of friends could even get together and divide the chores among themselves. But offer help only if it is possible to follow through on it. You could even spend a day with your friend so that her regular caretaker can take a break.
If your schedule does not permit you to visit regularly, do stay in touch with frequent calls and messages. As for gifts, books, headphones and even blankets would be a good idea.
Remember, your friend might be temperamental and emotional. Realize that it is not about you. Cancer patients need all the help and love that they can get. Your presence makes a huge difference to your friend.