I want to tell you how to be a good friend to someone who has cancer. Cancer can make your friend feel isolated and you want to help them not feel isolated but also respect their space. I am a cancer survivor and I want to describe some ways that I was able to be comforted by my friends but also have my personal space.

The “Ring Theory”

I want to start off with sharing something that I found when I was first diagnosed when I was trying to tell people how to act around me and my family. This is called the “ring theory.” What the ring theory is, it’s pretty much how not to say the wrong thing. The middle is the patient, the outer ring is the significant other, parent, sister etc. The outer ring from that are true friends to the patient, the outer ring from that are the colleagues of the patient. How it works is you comfort in and you dump out. This is the most basic way to explain how to talk to somebody with cancer. So what happens is from the outside circle in you can only put in comfort to the circles that are inside and the smaller circles can dump out anything that they’re feeling pretty much.

Also Ask Before You Visit

So the first thing that I want you to remember to do: ask before you visit. You never know what kind of state your friend is in and if they want to see people. Of course they love you and they want you to visit, but being sick is very unpredictable. Always make sure and ask before you visit. You should also totally call and send notes. Even if I didn’t feel like responding at the time or I was too tired to respond to or answer the phone, just knowing that people are thinking about me and wanting to send me things really, really, really meant a lot to me. Make sure to call and send notes or cards it really means a lot to your friend.

Offer To Do Specific Tasks

Another thing that you can do is offer to do tasks or errands. One of the biggest questions I got was please let me know if there is anything I can do or is there anything I can do for you. That’s great and I know that it comes from a good place, but it only leaves the person to say there’s nothing to do, I’m good thank you so much for asking. First of all, chemo is real and we can’t think on the spot of things that we need to get done. The way you can help us a ton is say specific things that you’re going to do that will help. Like saying I’m going to come by and drop off dinner, I’m going to come by and clean your house for you or pick up groceries or set up a time for all of their friends to come and visit. There’s so many little specific things that you can do to help a cancer friend.

Send a Care Package

Another thing to do which was my favorite thing while going through treatment was getting care packages and things in the mail. It made me feel loved and at least give me something to look forward to.

Take Cues from Your Friend

Also take cues from your friend. People can be private and not want to talk about something and sometimes people can be super open. Take cues and learn from your friend and you know bounce off of their energy. Let your friend know that you care, check in on them, keep your promises, you say you’re going to be somewhere really do your best to not forget. Still include your friend in plans and let them be the one to tell you if it’s too much to handle. Try to make your friend feel as normal as possible as if their life isn’t on the line and completely changed and how it’s gone down this road that they never thought it would go down.

Expect Good and Bad Days and Educate Yourself

Expect your friend to have good days and bad days, mentally and physically. Expect even when they’re supposed to be having their good days from chemo that maybe they’re having a rough emotional day and you need to step back. Another thing that you should totally do is do research on your friends cancer, educate yourself and be able to hold a conversation and know the kind of treatment that your friend is going through. That will give you so many more opportunities to be there for your friend, really understand what they’re going through. Try to understand the disease the best that you can. If you do the research it’ll show how much you care.

Do Your Best to Make them Feel Cared For

The last thing I want to say to you as a friend of somebody who has cancer is you really realize who your true friends are, who is meant to be in your life, that you really sometimes never would have expected. Be the best friend that you can be and it’ll all fall into place. Remember that you can only do so much.

I think that I’ve given you a really basic list of things. The easiest thing you can do to just make your friend feel better. If you have any questions please let me know.

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