When a Close Friend Gets Cancer

When a close friend gets cancer you likely will feel like I did, pretty much helpless. Perhaps you will wish that you were an MD so you could have a better handle on what has happened and what is likely to happen next. You wish you had that kind of expertise that can provide mind relieving information to your friend. Rather than fret over your lack of medical knowledge, you may find it more helpful to both you and your friend to center on the things that you can do to help when a close friend gets cancer. Possibly some of these thoughts will help you uncover some positive responses that you can try..

  1. A good place to begin any of your efforts is to put yourself in a calm frame of mind, not an easy thing to do when a close friend gets cancer. Each of us, MD or not, has his or her own way to calm down in the midst of emotional stress. Perhaps prayer helps you to release your tension as you pass difficulties to the care of higher power. Maybe quiet time with your tunes does it for you. Maybe you like to meditate or read favorite reflective passages to help break grip of the frantic feelings engendered when a close friend gets cancer. Your choice is less important than the fact that you recognize you are of little or no help to your friend if you are more emotionally overwrought than your friend. Its pretty much a no brainer that whatever else you may eventually do for your cancer stricken friend, cloaking all of your efforts with your own personal calm and serenity will multiply their effectiveness in helping your friend.
  2. Part of your personal calming routine may well include a well directed effort to increase your understanding of your friend's condition, diagnosis and upcoming procedures. Getting more information should not be confused with becoming an overnight oncologist. As long as you approach reading up on your friend's condition as a tool to helping you be more understanding and helpful during the treatment program you are on the right track. To keep yourself on track, remind yourself frequently that two hours of on line investigation just really isn't as reliable as years and years of medical study and experience. Seek understanding not authority.
  3. Getting yourself emotionally under control and giving yourself a little background information about cancer can prepare you to offer your friend the kind of positive empathy that can really help. The closer you are to your friend the more you will want to express your caring and concern for his or her present situation. With a somewhat calmed manner and some helpful background information you may be able to offer the kind of support that is not laced with useless over the top emotional outbursts or useless second guess medical opinions. Instead you can express your concern in positive ways that gently morph into reasonably positive ideas for dealing with the days that lie ahead.
  4. As time moves on after the initial diagnosis, one of the best things you can do when a close friend gets cancer is to continue to maintain your existing relationship in the pattern to which you both are accustomed. My close friend with cancer is used to communicating by regular mail. To get on a plane and show up at his doorstep would not have been an appropriate response to his announcement of his illness, nor would backing away from our friendship because of the fear of what will come next. What works better is to try to continue our regular letter centered communication. We don't ignore the cancer, but nor do we allow it to swallow up the whole of what our friendship is to us both. When a close friend gets cancer he or she finds the world is topsy turvy with all kinds appointments, medications, physical reactions and emotional distress. A good friend, who remains constant to the form and substance of friendship, can be a wonderful beacon of the familiar in the midst of all the change brought on by something as life altering as cancer.
  5. Just as good friends try to maintain the routine of their friendship when a close friend gets cancer, they may also find it helpful to the patient to encourage him or her to continue not just friendships but all those activities or interests which can be maintained through the treatment program . Urging your friend to pursue the normalcy that is accomplished through routine hobbies like gardening, reading, music, films can keep your friend at the top of his or her mental game and give them a positive perspective upon which to build. This is not the time to demand more from your friend than is physically possible, but it is a time to encourage those enriching and mind elevating projects already a part of the life of the cancer stricken person. The alternative of dropping everything and sinking into depression can be tempting. A good friend can stand watch over the doorway to that kind of behavior and influence movement towards a more healthful alternative.
  6. There are lots of practical things that you can do when a good friend gets cancer. Depending on the rest of your friend's support system and your personal availability, you can offer to help out with transportation to treatments or doctors visits, keep other friends up to date on your friend's condition and progress, make needed trips to the post office, cleaners, library or grocery store. No way can you do it all and you shouldn't try because the result, as many people will tell you, is your own personal exhaustion which can negate your ability to be of any use to your friend at all. But offering to do something and then following through will help both you and your friend.
  7. During cancer treatments and recovery, time can hang very heavy for patients. That's when good friends can really step up and offer the occasional, unexpected break in the monotony. Something as simple as a drive through beautiful countryside, a catered meal for a homebound patient, arranging a visit by another friend or relative, a special homemade treat, or even just renting a favorite movie to watch together can be like opening the window and letting in a cool breeze.

As a close friend you have an understanding of the patient that few others share and as a result you have a sense of what might really amuse, touch, encourage, comfort or pleasantly distract your friend. You can make the choice to do something with that knowledge that will be of definite value in the recovery efforts of you friend. Undoubtedly when a close friend gets cancer there is very little upside. For you, the cancer of your close friend may give you the chance to show your friend, through your words and actions,how very important that friend is..

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