How to Be a Friend to Someone with Cancer

two girls, one with cancerYou’re trying to be supportive to your friend with cancer. But are you? Sometimes, even when we have the best intentions, we may hit a sour note.

The women our team sees every day have gone through tremendous challenges to overcome cancer, and are incredibly inspirational to us all. We often have the opportunity to meet their support systems—the loved ones who have been by their side throughout the journey.

There isn’t a defined guidebook about how to talk to your friend or family member battling cancer.  So we came up with a few things to keep in mind when trying to support your loved one:

Minimalizing

When a friend tells you they have cancer, you may think you’re being helpful by saying, “It could be a worse type of cancer” or “Don’t worry; everything will be fine” or “You don’t even look sick.” Although you’re trying to be helpful and positive, you don’t know how they’re feeling inside. They may be having a really bad day, and these comments may unknowingly make them feel minimized.

What to do instead: Sometimes, it’s just best to listen. If they’re willing to share their feelings, let them express how they’re feeling.

Offering to Help

Someone dealing with cancer has a TON on his or her plate. They are likely hearing a lot of “Let us know if you need anything at all.”

While intentions to help are good, remember that your loved one might have so much going on that he or she doesn’t know where to begin to ask for help. Or, they may be too embarrassed to ask for help when they need it.

How do you help? Just do it. If you’re at the grocery, give your friend a call and ask what they need or just pick up some essentials. Or if you do ask, get specific. Offer to pick up the kids from school or bring them to their after-school activities. These small generosities can help relieve a lot of stress.

Don’t Bring Up Insecurities

Women often feel their hair and breasts define their femininity. Asking questions such as “Are you going to lose your hair?” might stir up feelings unknowingly. Also, making jokes such as “I wish my insurance paid for a boob job” may not lighten the mood as much as you’d think. They’re fighting cancer. Not getting plastic surgery. 

What to do instead: This isn’t to say you can’t joke around—but maybe let your friend take the lead! And, above all, if you notice your friend is looking spectacular, be sure to mention it.

Comment on our Facebook page with more suggestions on how to be a supportive friend!

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