I’m fortunate enough to write this blog as someone who has not been diagnosed with “the Big C” so far in my life. I do, however, know too many people that I love who have been diagnosed. From my experiences with them and from what they have spoken to me about, I have come up with my own “do’s and don’ts list” when it comes dealing with someone that has cancer.
Do – know your relationship level with the person and act accordingly. If this person is a colleague at work and you are not very close, don’t sob on her lap about how awful this is and how bad you feel. Judge your relationship and act accordingly – even if it’s to just say how sorry you are to hear.
Don’t – just offer. DO! Don’t leave it up in the air or dependant on your friend to call if they want to talk. Call her. Text her. Email her – whatever. Just check in. And don’t offer to make a meal. Instead tell her you will make X and just to let her know when is a good night to drop it off. When you do drop it off, don’t stay. The reason most people turn down a meal is because they are in no mood to see people. Chances are they aren’t feeling well and the house is a mess. Don’t come in – even for a short visit. You could even just leave it on the front step with a note and leave after you ring the doorbell.
Don’t – take it personally. If she wants to open up and talk, great. If not, don’t get upset or hurt. You have no idea what she’s going through – even though you could imagine, you don’t know really know. Remember, this isn’t about you.
DO – Let her be sad, mad, angry, frustrated, regretful, blaming etc… This is her life. Getting this news changes everything. She’s allowed to feel all of these feelings.
Don’t – tell her it’s going to be fine. You have no grounds to say something like this. You don’t know. Hell, even the doctors sometimes don’t know.
Don’t – be a selfish asshole. A friend of mine told me about a time, when she had breast cancer, that her friend was over for dinner and kept whining about having to go on blood pressure or thyroid pills! She wouldn’t stop complaining about the fact that she would have to be on them for the rest of her life. OMG! It’s a PILL! My friend didn’t even know what her treatment or odds were like to live, and this twit is talking about her thyroid issue? Get a clue!
DO – be there. Whether it’s a phone call or to go for a spa day or to listen to her cry for 3 hours, just be there.
DO – learn about the disease. Each type of cancer is different and so are treatments. Take time to learn about the type of cancer so that you can be educated if and when you speak to her about it.
DO – share information. If you hear about a new treatment, drug, research or vitamins etc… let her know. Although it’s likely she knows all there is to know from googling the hell out of cancer, she may not have heard of your information. At the very least, she knows you care and are thinking of her.
DO – offer to help. Again depending on the relationship, offer to help drive to treatments or pick up kids from school, or make a meal or clean her bathroom. I find that offering this help to the spouse (if applicable) is most useful. This person is having to pick up the slack on top of having to deal with the illness as well. This person would be more likely to accept help than your friend – or at least that has been my experience.
DO – be positive and supportive. Don’t go overboard and be annoyingly positive – like everything is sunshine and lollipops. But do try to be a source of positivity and support. It has been proven that thinking positive and sending positive energy to injured body parts speeds healing. So try to encourage that.
DO – continue your normal relationship. Continue to celebrate birthdays, have girls’ night, watch The Bachelor, gossip about celebrities and more. Although having cancer has changed her life, it hasn’t ended it! She will likely want or need some sense of normalcy and distraction and a chance to just laugh and smile.
I know that some people may read this and agree or disagree. This is just what I, personally think is appropriate from my own experiences with family and friends. I’m hoping that you will never have to use this list because no one you know will ever get cancer. But if you do, this could be a good starting point on what to do next for your loved one.