My Friend with Cancer: How to Help When You Don’t Know Them Like Family

June 27, 2014  |  Mesothelioma

It’s one thing when you know them like a brother or a sister. But when you have a friend with cancer and the friend is more friend than family? Of course, friend here means more “— you know where they work, who their spouses are and are invited to their holiday parties” and less “—best friends forever and you can call me Charlie.”

So what do you do?

Because, of course, you still want to help — you just don’t know how.

Our advice is that you can do more than you think you can. And even better: what you do may be some of the most helpful support and assistance that your friend with cancer can get.

That’s because distant friends have distance on their side. They can really help, because there are fewer expectations and there is less instant regret and heartache in the relationship. If you think it’s hard to have a family member or best friend with cancer, just imagine for a second what it’s like for them. Not only do they actually have cancer — but now they also have to support their friends through their cancer, even when they’re sick, even when they’re tired, even when they have very little support to give.

Some parents with mesothelioma talk to us about always having to have a strong face when they are in front of their children, how they never felt they could cry in front of their family.

So that’s one option: maybe, by being that friend that they only know so well, you can offer a shoulder to really weep and heave on, should your more distant friend need it.

You can also help your distant friend with dealing with more mundane tasks that they need help with. Making cupcakes for their child’s school party, picking up the dry cleaning, making sure the lawn is mowed… those things that are first on the list to cut out and stop worrying about when we are hit with one of life’s earthquakes… you can help with those.

And you can think out of the box too. If you visit your friend in the hospital and notice that they are using the hospital’s slippers or that the blanket may be a little thin… well, you may be the only person who noticed, and you can help fix that!

The final thing to do is ASK. Just Ask. There’s no need for you to feel like you have to know what they need without even hearing it from them — instead, you can help the most when you are both on the same page.

A final thing to keep in mind is, people change. And when one of those people has cancer, people change quickly.

There are some friends that run away at the first mention of cancer. There are some close friends or family members, even, who are not there and as supportive as they could have been — much to the cancer patient’s regret. But there are others still who step up to the plate in ways that are unexpected.

If you’ve shown up to their holiday parties for a few years in a row but don’t speak much the rest of the year, don’t count yourself out. You can still help. And your friendship? It’s only getting stronger.

If you have a friend who has or suffered from cancer, tell us what you did to help them by writing on our Facebook page here: We’d love to hear how you found a way to help them!

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