Battling cancer is one of the hardest things a person may have to do, but standing by the sidelines can be really tough too. When someone you care about is struggling with cancer, you may find yourself plagued by worries about saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing or somehow making everything worse. While it’s perfectly natural to worry, the very fact you have these concerns is proof of something very important: you’re there, you care and you want to help
Rather than becoming introspective and nervous, why not channel these anxieties into something more positive and practical? Here are 19 ways you can help someone who has been diagnosed with cancer; from the little things, to big helpful tasks…
1. Be a “no pressure” friend
“You’re so brave”, “you’re so strong”, “you’re an inspiration”. These are sentiments many cancer sufferers hear from the people around them. While these statements can be encouraging, they can also pile huge amounts of pressure on someone going through a hard time. Being a “no pressure” friend means being someone that your unwell friend doesn’t have to be “strong” in front of. Give them the chance to moan, whinge, cry and be angry – without judgement. Sometimes it’s really important to vent.
2. Don’t be distant
Illness is terrifying when it affects you personally. When it affects those close to you it is also scary, reminding us of our own latent fears. This can push some people to distance themselves from others who are suffering from cancer, which is why it’s so important to make a big effort to stick around. Company and companionship are some of the best distractions in difficult times, so make sure you stay close and take the initiative by planning meet-ups and activities.
3. Raise money
Sometimes treatment for cancer patients is limited. If your loved one or friend needs extra treatment, equipment or support, talk to them about arranging a fundraising activity to fund their care. From raffles to sponsored walks, get their permission and give it your all.
4. Give advice
Whether you’re an accountant, homeopathist, masseuse or solicitor, you may have skills your friend or loved one needs in times of trouble. If you can offer good advice, make sure you sit down and work through it carefully, answering all their questions to the best of your ability. If you feel at all uncertain or uncomfortable, make sure you are open and honest about it. You may be able to do research or find someone who can offer more accurate guidance.
It might sound simple, but talking about “the big C” can be beneficial. Don’t make assumptions about what your loved one wants simply because the topic is uncomfortable. Instead talk openly about their cancer, their treatment and their needs. Before you take any steps, make sure you discuss them with the individual first. Whether you’re arranging meal deliveries or planning a fundraiser, going ahead without permission can make people feel powerless – so open up and share as much as you can.
6. But don’t make it all about cancer
While communicating openly is essential, don’t allow every conversation and activity to become about your loved one’s illness. It’s great to be able to have fun, get distracted and enjoy some respite from health worries, so make every effort to invite the individual to events activities and social functions – let them be the one to say no if they’re not feeling up to it.
7. Send a meal
With permission, send a meal to your loved one, or arrange for regular food deliveries.
8. Help with childcare
If your friend or loved one has a young family, offer to help out with childcare. From doing picks ups and giving lifts, to arranging play dates with your kids or taking the youngsters out for an activity, it all helps.
9. Offer transport
From lifts to the shops, to driving your friend to medical appointments, offer to help with transportation. If possible (and if your friend would like it), offer to keep them company during treatments.
10. Gather information
Your friend or loved one may have lots of questions about issues relating to their care and their personal matters, from finance to legal queries. It can be exhausting to research every little thing, so offer to help with or undertake research into an area they are concerned about.
11. Make asking for help easy
It’s never easy to ask for help. You can work to ensure your loved one comes to you for support by making the offer first. Making offers and following up with statements like: “feel free to take me up on this any time” will make your help seem more accessible and open-ended.
12. Minimise pressure
A simple “no need to respond” at the end of texts, voicemails and calls will help ensure your loved one doesn’t get back to you if they’re not feeling up to it, making sure they’re getting enough rest and not putting undue pressure on themselves.
13. Call from the shops
Whether you’re in your friend’s favourite clothes store, deli or simply the supermarket, get in touch to find out if they need or want anything.
14. Arrange a cleaner
Nobody likes housework, especially when they’re feeling much less than their best. With their permission, why not treat your loved one to a visit from a professional cleaner or give their place a spruce up yourself?
15.Book a masseuse
Ask your friend if they’d like a visit from a masseuse as a treat. Offer to join them if it would help them relax and enjoy the experience.
16. Rent a movie & order takeaway
A relaxing evening in with a favourite film and your loved one’s favourite takeaway is a great way to take their mind off their illness.
17. Send jokes & fun photos
Your friend may not have the energy to respond but cheerful messages are a lovely distraction and they will likely appreciate the fact that you’re thinking of them.
18. Walk the dog
Does your loved one have a pet? Offer to feed the pet, take them for walks, groom them or even catsit to relieve the burden.
19. Be there – long term
Once the first few months after diagnosis have been and gone, life will likely feel a bit more “normal” again, but your loved one will still be struggling. Don’t let normalcy stop you from making a special effort to actively help and support the person you care about. Keep doing all of the great things on this list and finding new, more personal ways to show your support.