Cancer Care

What Can I Do to Help a Friend Who Has Cancer?

When a friend or loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you might be at a loss when trying to answer the following simple question: "What can I do to help?" But sometimes your friend won't even know what to ask for. Cancer is likely just as foreign to them as it is to you, so rather than waiting to be asked for help, offer your own suggestions. Here are a few ideas to get started.

Get in the Kitchen

Helping with meals can be very meaningful assistance for someone going through chemotherapy or radiation. And remember, just because a friend is married doesn't mean their spouse or partner can take over everything. Sometimes spouses need help, too. Drop off a special meal or even put together a few meals that can be stored in the freezer and warmed up later. If you want to do something more extensive, consider putting together a meal calendar with other friends and family. Schedule someone to provide a meal every day or every other day.

Errand Assistance

Your loved one may have a tough time working up the energy to do chores, even something as simple as going to the grocery store or picking up prescriptions. Offer to run errands on a certain day of the week, every week, or just ask your friend to put together a short list of what's most needed. If you have a friend who often turns you down, not wanting to be a burden, you may need to get a little creative. For example, the next time you're at the grocery store or pharmacy, call or text your friend and ask if it would be helpful for you to pick up a few things while you're there.

Offer Transportation

Driving your friend to cancer treatment is especially meaningful, because you can provide not only physical support but moral support during the treatment itself. Offer to provide rides, or if you aren't available, pay for a few Uber or Lyft rides so your friend doesn't have to worry about parking. Make it known that your offer is good any time, even if your friend doesn't need the help right away.

Add Some Humor to Your Friend's Life

There will be times when your friend needs a little humor more than anything else. Rent some funny movies, make popcorn, and have a good time at home. Try buying a humorous card from an outlet such as the Emily McDowell Studio. Emily had cancer herself and knows the perfect gifts that bring just the right dose of humor. The "Friendship Through Cancer" card or "It's a Marathon" card are two good examples. A simple card can really lighten the mood while also showing that you understand and are willing to help.

Just Be a Friend

Sometimes people feel uncomfortable around someone who's facing an illness and pull away after a few weeks or months. Resolve to be the friend who sticks around no matter what. You don't have to make any huge, grand gestures; sometimes, simple is best. Set a reminder on your phone to send a quick text or email to your friend once a week. Drop off a few comfort items every now and then, such as a super-soft blanket, fuzzy slippers, or a gift certificate for a mobile masseuse.

"What can I do?" It's easy to ask this question when the news of a cancer diagnosis is so fresh, but it's so important to realize that you don't have to be the most creative person or have a wealth of money at your fingertips to make a difference. The most significant thing you can do is to just be there with humor and a shoulder to lean on.

Posted in Cancer Care

Author and publicist, featured by Business Week, Livestrong, The Nest, and many other publications. Her interests include Science, technology, business, pets, women's lifestyle and Christian living.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.