When we learn that a friend or family member has been diagnosed with cancer, we instinctively want to help but may not know what to do. The usual “get better soon” platitudes are obviously inappropriate when serious illness strikes and the prognosis may be dire. Yet, it is at times like these when hopelessness and despair threaten to overwhelm someone we love that they and their family need us most.Serious illness generates unfamiliar discomfort for both the cancer patient and his friends. In watching someone else face death, we are reminded of our own human frailty; something most of us prefer not to think about. If a friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer, don’t stay away out of embarrassment or a misplaced desire not to intrude; but do use the following suggestions to offer meaningful aid:
- Be specific. Even people who have a minor illness are unlikely to take you up on a vague offer to “call me if there’s anything I can do.” This is even more true of people who are diagnosed with cancer. Making a specific offer of help is more useful. Life goes on when you have cancer. Dogs must be walked, children taken to school and activities, meals cooked, houses cleaned, etc. Shouldering even one of these responsibilities for your friend will be deeply appreciated. Offering to drive your friend to doctors’ appointments or treatment sessions, walk the dog, pick up the kids from school, bring over a hot meal every Monday night or take over carpool duties to kids’ activities will make your friend’s life easier and be appreciated.
To be continued