It’s normal to feel a little uncomfortable around a friend who’s fighting cancer. You don’t know what to say, and you’re not sure how to help, but you shouldn’t let your trepidation keep you from being a friend. From offering an open ear to relieving everyday burdens, there’s a lot that you can do to support the healing process. If you want to help but aren’t sure how, here are six acts of kindness your friend is sure to appreciate.
Drop Off Groceries
Simple errands can become seriously burdensome when you’re living with cancer. If your friend was an avid farmers market shopper before her diagnosis, grab her some extras on Saturday morning. Or if she has a favorite snack, buy a package while you’re at the grocery store. When you drop them off, don’t linger for a conversation. Performing a favor with no expectations, just to make your friend’s day a little easier, is the best way to help.
Babysit Their Kids
If you’re a parent, you know how great it is to have the occasional kid-free day—and that’s just with normal, everyday stressors. Take the relief you feel when your kids have a playdate, multiply it by a million, and that’s how much your friend will appreciate you stepping in to take the kids for a day. No kids? Offer to pay for a weekday dog walker or to send their pooch to boarding when treatment demands get hectic. By taking care of her charges, you free up your friend’s energy to focus on healing.
Life doesn’t stop when you have cancer. There are still chores to do, errands to run, and projects to finish. Coordinate with your friend’s spouse to deep clean while she’s at treatment, or get friends to pitch in so you can hire someone to mow the lawn. Based on national averages, as little as $50 can afford your friend some relaxation and peace of mind. It may not seem like much but, when you’re overwhelmed, every bit helps.
Attend a Support Group
It’s scary to go to a support group for the first time. But despite the fear, sharing thoughts and feelings with others going through the same thing can be incredibly healing. Help your friend make the leap by offering to stand by her side during the first group meeting. Whether she chooses to share during the first meeting or not, simply showing up will demonstrate that there’s nothing to fear—and a lot to gain.
Get brunch, visit a museum, or buy tickets to a local show. Do the things you normally enjoy together for a healthy distraction and a sense of normalcy. However, recognize that your friend may not have the stamina she once had. You may need to keep outings brief or schedule breaks into the day. Learn from the American Cancer Society the kinds of changes to expect when your friend has cancer, and do what you can to accommodate her without making a big deal of it.
You shouldn’t let worry about saying the wrong thing scare you into silence. But at the same time, the wrong words can be hurtful. Do your research to learn what you shouldn’t say to someone with cancer; while statements like “Everything will be OK” might feel benign or even helpful, they can be stinging words for someone whose future is uncertain. Prevention offers more examples of things many cancer patients are sick of hearing, but remember that no one is the same. Your friend is a person, not a number on a medical chart. Listen to how she talks about her illness and follow her lead. And know that you don’t always need to make cancer the focus of the conversation; your friend spends plenty of time thinking about her illness and may welcome the opportunity to talk about anything else.
When someone you care about is fighting cancer, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Whether you can do a single load of laundry or pay for six months of dog walking, your help makes a difference during an extremely difficult time. So reach out, step up, and lend a hand.
This article was written by Scott Sanders, He is the creator of CancerWell.org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer.