Going through cancer can be lonely and scary. Those with strong support networks tend to adjust better to dealing with cancer, have a more positive outlook, and even have a better quality of life. If you have a friend or a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer, who is undergoing treatment, or is a survivor, know that your support matters – and can make a difference. Here’s how to support someone with cancer.
Check-In With Your Loved One
Simply reminding your loved ones that you’re there for them can have a significant impact. You can do this in a low-stakes way that doesn’t put additional stress or expectations on them. For example, send a text, share a meme, mail a card, give them a call, or share photos or videos. You can also check in with your loved one’s carer or family to see how they’re doing.
When checking in, do so at a convenient time. If the timing isn’t right, promise to get in touch shortly. Always ask questions, show interest, and let them know that you’ll be in touch again soon. If you miss a call from them, get in touch quickly – and make sure you respond to their messages.
Pay Them a Visit
It’s easy to feel alone when going through cancer. Arrange to visit or spend time with your friend or loved one. This can help bring some routine and normalcy to their days. When visiting, always call first, and be understanding if they’re not up for visitors. Short, frequent drop-ins are better than longer ones.
Bring a snack or self-care gift and try to time your visits in a way that gives the caretaker an opportunity for a break as well. Your friend might not be feeling well enough for hobbies or activities, so keep things simple and bring something to do if your friend needs to rest or nap. Even if you’re not actively doing anything together, your company can make a big difference.
Physical touch such as hugs can have a positive impact but be mindful of COVID protocols and the risk of infection. Don’t visit if you’re unwell.
Talk to Them
Some people fall out of touch with people with cancer simply because they don’t know what to say. But this makes their cancer about you. Reframe things away from your concerns about feeling uncomfortable and instead around how you can be there for your friend.
Ask questions, talk about shared interests and experiences, provide honest compliments, make jokes, and include your friend in group conversations. Your friend might want to talk about their cancer, or they might want to focus on other topics instead. They might not want to speak at all – in which case being there is plenty. Allow them to guide the conversation and be respectful of their time, energy, and needs.
Avoid offering advice or judging their choices regarding treatment or care or telling them to “be strong” or “fight” their cancer.
Help With Chores and Errands
Cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment can be exhausting. You can help your friend by offering to run errands, do tasks around the house, cook and clean, pet-sit, play chauffeur or pick up groceries or prescriptions. Ask your friend’s caretaker if they have any tasks they need help with – this helps your friend as well.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask your friend or their caretaker and make a list of tasks that need doing both regularly and infrequently. You and other friends and family members can delegate tasks among yourselves to ensure that your friend is getting as much help as possible.
March is the Perfect Time to Step Up Your Support
March is Woman’s History Month and an ideal time to show up for the women in your life. If you have a friend going through cancer or cancer treatment, reflect on what you can do to make life easier, more comfortable, and more inclusive for your friend.
At SWWO, we’re always here for our patients, their carers, and their support networks. For more information about our women-centered approach to gynecologic cancer care, get in touch – we’re here to help and support you.