When your friend is diagnosed with cancer, you will be needed now more than ever.
Research from Psychology Today suggests that cancer patients who receive strong support from friends can experience less pain and have more effective results from their treatments and medications.
Today, cancer patients need not stay in a hospital setting. They will be treated as an outpatient and during this time, they will need support and encouragement in addition to gifts to battle cancer. As a friend, you must be aware of the signs your friend with cancer needs help, and filling these needs can make a big difference in her life.
But sometimes, even when you want to help, you may find yourself at a loss. You don’t know what to do, say, and where you can help. This is very common so you don’t have to feel bad. What’s important is that you are there for her and that you will be there when your friend needs you the most.
So when is that and how can you tell? In this article, we will discuss the signs you need to look out for when your friend needs your help.
3 Signs Your Friend With Cancer Needs Help
Most people don’t like asking for help even when they need it. This is especially true for everyone and not just for cancer patients. Thus, even when you reminded your friend to “Call you when she needs help”, it’s highly likely that you won’t get that call. This is why you should watch out for the signs instead. This way, you will know exactly when to step in.
#1 – When she openly talks about her illness
If your friend who has been avoiding the topic suddenly decides to talk about her illness, listen. Respect her need to share and don’t be afraid to talk to her about it. If she chooses to confide in you or vent out her frustrations with you, then you can help by simply listening. Having someone to trust and comfortably share experiences with is a great gift for a person living with cancer.
Maybe she’s been holding her emotions far too long and she needs to voice it out? Maybe there’s something that’s been troubling her and she needs someone to hear it. Maybe she just needs someone to hold her while she cried it out.
See, when she starts talking, you don’t have to feel obligated to respond. You don’t have to give a motivational speech, advice, or platitudes. You can just sit there, hold her hand, and let her talk. Sometimes, all she needs is a caring listener who will be there when she feels scared.
#2 – Fatigue after treatment
One of the most common side effects of cancer and its treatment is cancer fatigue. This is often described as paralyzing and it can’t be relieved by rest or sleep. When your friend experiences this, the kindest thing you can do is to offer practical help.
This side effect can make her too tired to go to the grocery store, cook, clean, or drive to her appointments. So when your friend has cancer fatigue, you can offer to cook for her, buy her a meal, or bring over food that she can just pop in the microwave and eat immediately. Just make sure to ask if she has dietary restrictions.
You can also volunteer to take her to her appointments, do some household chores, and run errands for her. All these are a great help for your friend as well as her caregiver. With these kinds of practical help, your friend can stop worrying and just focus on healing. Make sure, however, that you can follow through with your promises.
#3 – Isolating Herself
Cancer tends to make someone feel isolated and lonely. It makes someone feel distant from others. When you see or feel that your friend is going through this, make sure to remind her that she’s not alone. Try to spend time with her and offer to do things you used to enjoy doing together.
Become a distraction for her and help her feel like she did before cancer. You can watch your favorite TV shows or movies together. Or if your schedule won’t permit it, you can send her texts. Talk about the kids, the latest gossip in the neighborhood, or the funny incident you had while cooking dinner.
Regular visits, messages, and calls can help your friend know that she is not alone in fighting cancer.
Things to Consider When Making Visits
When you are planning to visit, make sure to call first. Sometimes, your friend may not have the energy to entertain guests, and that she can’t see you during that time. If this happens, be understanding and offer to visit another time.
Other things to consider when seeing your friend are the duration of your visit and the day you’re going. Make sure to keep your visits short but regular. A couple of hours will be great but if you notice her feeling tired already, offer to leave. Then, inform her of your next visit so she’ll have something to look forward to. You may also leave her a gift, such as humorous books, to keep her occupied while she’s alone.
Also, avoid visiting during the weekends, holidays, or times when you’ll know other friends and family may make their visits. See, when you’re stuck in the house, you’ll have no sense of time. So the Wednesday afternoons may feel as lonely as the Saturday nights.
Additionally, your visits can also give support to her caregiver. With you staying, the caregiver can go out for a couple of hours and have time for himself/herself.