How to Be a Sturdy Support Your Cancer-Stricken Friend Needs

Supporting a dear friend through their ongoing battle with cancer is one of the most delicate ventures you’ll ever have to embark on. However solid, your friendship should become a mainstay for your soulmate to lean on even in the darkest of hours. You’ll face a number of questions that won’t be so easy to answer, and you’ll find yourself in situations that will seem quite unsolvable.

The ways to support an ailing friend are many, but they always depend on the unique dynamic between two persons. At the end of the day, something as simple as talking and listening might make a world of difference.

Understand That It’s All About Them

However hard it might be for you, always remember that the person affected by cancer is going through something you couldn’t possibly understand or measure the size and weight of. This, nevertheless, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to grasp their situation or show interest in their feelings, but to be careful enough not to make statements like “I know exactly what you’re dealing with” or “I feel just as bad as you do”, since, let’s be honest, you don’t.

Before even talking to your friend about their diagnosis, it’s important to take some time to digest the news, consider the facts and examine your own feelings. This process includes learning more about the specific character of their condition, coping with the shock in your own terms, and thinking about it all from your friend’s perspective.

The worst thing you can do is to rush ahead and additionally burden them with your grief – you should appear as a standfast instead, and provide support and consolation in an unobtrusive way.

Don’t Fear the Changes

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Even in cases of aggressive treatment, your best friend would probably still want you by their side during the process. Most certainly, you’ll spend as much time together as you have earlier, but the surroundings, conditions and dynamic of your relationship will have to suffer some changes. It’s doubtless that you yourself would want to be a part of their daily battles, but you’ll also have to learn when to back off and give them some space.

Propose a Conversation

If your friendship is a close one, it’s probably for the best to have an open conversation about the newly created circumstances, and set some ground rules from the early start. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but don’t push too much if the answers are not given right away. Be patient, but explain to your friend that you need them to give you some guidelines on how differently they want this situation to be handled by you.

If you’ve faced some challenging happenstances together in the past and already have a mechanism when it comes to overcoming difficulties, ask if those apply to this one as well. Let them choose the approach on their own, and respect their choices, even if they mean that you won’t be included in your friend’s life as much as you used to be.

Make Clear You’re At Their Disposal

Even if being shut out from your friend’s everyday struggles, try to be at their disposal as much as you can. Their need for isolation might be only an initial reaction to the hard news, which is why you should definitely make it perfectly clear that you’ll be there for your friend whenever they need them to. Understand that different stages of cancer come with changes that are psychological as well as physical, and don’t get hurt or offended if they need a bit of alone time.

Once they finally do accept your help, allow them to express their feelings openly, however pessimistic they get. The emotional problems triggered by this disease come in all shapes and intensities, and before you start addressing their depression or anxiety, let your friend communicate their emotions.

Make Them See the Bright Side  

Humor is yet another thing you should have some kind of agreement over from an early start. Some people need it as an emotional vent and frequently use it as a defense mechanism, which, when cancer is in case, can be a great therapeutic solution. If your friend is not comfortable with jokes about their condition, avoid them at all costs.

Introduce laughter through off-topic subjects instead – tell funny stories, propose watching comedies together or simply crack a silly quip every now and then. However dispirited, laughter will help them deal with their illness in a less somber manner and remind them of life’s simple pleasures.

Feel Free To Make Plans

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Whichever the stage of your friend’s sickness, don’t be afraid to make plans for the future – seeing forward will keep your friend motivated through their treatment and give them a strong sense of purpose. Even if not potentially fatal, every cancer is stubborn and enduring, which makes every single day endlessly tedious and hard to persist.

After a while of recurring treatments and difficulties, you friend might lose their motivation to keep resisting, which is why giving them something to expect and hope for can be a great driving force.

Offer Practical Assistance

Apart from being there as emotional support, try making yourself available for any kind of practical help your friend might need. In certain phases of treatment, they might get particularly weak and unable to do their daily tasks on their own, and assisting them at those times will mean more to them than you’ll ever know.

Poor physical health is extremely frustrating, since it disables you to function normally, and prevents you from dealing with ordinary, but significant tasks like chores, shopping or baby-sitting. The feeling of getting betrayed by their own body is quite overwhelming, which is why you should play a valuable role of being your friend’s stand-in.

Remind Them of Who They Really Are

Making your friendship all about your friend’s illness will not help them much. It’s important to encourage them to get on with their lives, which is something they wouldn’t be able to do if you keep insisting on them to rest all the time and avoid any possible risks. Find a balance between what’s normal and what’s potentially dangerous, and allow them to occasionally enjoy the same things they once have.

In case your friend expresses a wish to do something, but feeling too frail to get out of bed, bring fun to their bedroom. It might take you an extra mile, but try to be as creative as you can, and find a way of indulging their needs in a safe way.

Don’t let the cancer stand between you two as individuals who deeply care for each other, and don’t forget to remind your friend that they’re still the amiable, funny and intelligent human being that you’ve grown to know and love.  

In the face of a challenge, continuing friendships through regular activities, open conversations and laughter can make a world of difference for a person suffering from cancer. Even when the odds are not in your favor, be supportive, encouraging and present throughout their long-lasting struggle.

Jelena Cekic
Jelena Cekic
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Jelena Cekic is a creative writer and blogger at MyCity Web with a Master’s degree in Serbian Language and Literature from the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad. She is passionate about topics like lifestyle, art, child development, travel and gastronomy. Her latest writing attempts include works of fiction. Apart from being a movie aficionado, Jelena enjoys magic realism, black tea, red currant berries, cats, and declares herself as a Whovian.

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