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Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say, or how to help when a friend or family member has cancer. You might be unsure how to talk or be scared of saying the 'wrong' thing, and so instead say nothing at all. But there are lots of simple, practical things that you can do and say to be there for a loved one, and show your support. Here are some tips shared by people who’ve been there.
1. “Just be you…be normal!”
Leesa suggests chatting as you usually would, about normal everyday things. She says: “Not everyone wants to talk about cancer-related things like 'How are you feeling?' or 'When is your next treatment?' - all those questions that bring reality back home for that moment. Stay positive and talk about normal everyday things. Don’t focus on our lives, tell us what you have going on in yours. It definitely helps!
2. "Laughter is the best medicine"
Laughter isn’t always appropriate, but sometimes it can be a welcome release, and help break the ice on what can be a sensitive topic. A humorous approach (even if it’s quite dark humour!) can sometimes be more helpful than tiptoeing around a subject. Jane says: “My very best visitors came, didn’t make me feel like a freak show, treated me as ME, made me laugh and then left before I fell asleep!”
3. “Make a happy tin”
Suzanne’s friend made her a really meaningful gift to make her smile during treatment: “My friend made me a ‘happy tin’ full of small, inexpensive presents and gave it to me when I started chemo. It meant that I always had something to open and make me smile when I was having a bad day.”
4. “Give me the option to say no”
Purvi’s tip is to keep extending invitations – for coffee, to the cinema or whatever – to your friend, family member or colleague with cancer: “Ask me out for a drink/dinner/party, even if it’s chemo day. Don’t assume I won’t come, and give me the option to say no. Makes me feel more normal.”
5. “Cancer doesn’t end when treatment finishes”
Like Joanna says, your loved one will still need your support after treatment has finished, so remember to check-in then, too: “The person who had cancer has gone through a rollercoaster period in their life and now they have to face their new normal. The world is a different, unknown and, to be honest, scary place, and everyone thinks they are just back to how it was before. It doesn’t work like that. Just ask occasionally, ‘How are you?’”
Even the smallest things you say or do can make a big difference to someone you know who has cancer.
If you have a tip about how to help a friend, family member or colleague, you can share it in the comments section below.
If you’d like to talk to others who may be going through a similar experience, our Family and Friends group is a great place to share your feelings and get support.
Join our Online Community to talk to other people affected by cancer
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