Happy National Best Friends Day, which is celebrated on the 8th June every year. In this blog, Content Developer Azmina gives 10 top tips for supporting a friend with cancer.
National Best Friends Day is an annual celebration of how friendships enrich our lives. Many of us have a special person that we call our ‘best friend’. They are always there to support us and share both our laughter and our tears.
Today is a good time to let your closest friends know how important they are to you and how much you cherish their friendship.
How to support a friend facing cancer
Finding out that your friend has been diagnosed with cancer is likely to be overwhelming news. You may instinctively want to help, but feel unsure what to say or do.
Your care and compassion can make a real difference to your friend. If you are open and sensitive to their feelings, you will not go far wrong.
10 top friendship tips
Here are 10 practical tips for how to be a great best friend to someone facing cancer:
1. Take time to process your own feelings: Although you are not the one who has been diagnosed with cancer, you too may feel a range of powerful emotions. If you work through your own feelings, you will be better prepared to support your friend. Call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 to ask questions or talk through concerns about your friend’s diagnosis.
2. Stay in touch: Cancer can be very isolating. Let your friend know that you are thinking of them by staying in regular contact. One of our supporters, Christine, explains:
To celebrate National Best Friends Day, why not send your friend a free Macmillan electronic card (eCard) at ecards.macmillan.org.uk?
3. Find out if your friend wants to talk: It is not necessary to rush into a conversation about cancer. If your friend is feeling shock or disbelief, they may find it difficult to speak about their diagnosis at first. Respect your friend’s privacy, but reassure them that you are willing to listen whenever they feel ready to talk.
4. Be a good listener: If your friend decides to talk to you about their cancer, you can help them just by listening and not changing the subject. Focus carefully on what your friend is saying and show that you are listening by nodding and making eye contact.
5. Show empathy: If your friend starts to cry, allow them to express their sadness openly and acknowledge how difficult their situation must be. Sometimes touching their hand or putting an arm around their shoulder can help more than words.
6. Keep your friendship as normal and balanced as possible: Your friend is still the same person that they have always been. They may simply want to chat about ordinary things, such as TV programmes or shared interests. Continue inviting your friend to social events and let them be the one to decide if they cannot make it.
7. Choose a thoughtful gift: To brighten up your friend’s day, you may wish to buy them a small inexpensive gift. Magazines, audio books, music or puzzles may be welcome distractions during chemotherapy. Look for practical items that your friend may need or enjoy, such as toiletries or favourite snacks, or something that makes them smile.
8. Offer practical help: When your friend is having cancer treatment, they may find everyday household chores more draining. Rather than saying broadly ‘let me know if there is anything I can do’, offer help with specific tasks. Practical ideas include doing grocery shopping, collecting prescriptions, babysitting and taking care of any pets.
9. Give support at hospital appointments: Help your friend prepare for hospital appointments by making a list of important questions to ask their doctor or nurse. Offer to accompany them for support (especially if they are having a test or scan) and take notes.
10. Keep up your support after the initial diagnosis: Your friend needs your support not only when they are first diagnosed with cancer, but also during and after treatment. Even when cancer has been cured, it can take time to recover both physically and emotionally. Let your friend know that you are still available to listen when they want to talk.
For more information, we have a range of booklets on talking about cancer.
On National Best Friends Day, remember that your support can make an amazing difference to a friend facing cancer and bring you even closer together.
We're with you every step of the way
The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.
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Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo