So your friend has cancer. This will be one of the toughest things your friend will ever experience. Support from their friends will be vital for them during this time. That sounds like a lot of pressure on you but just remember, they’re still your same old friend: they’ve just found themselves in a really crappy situation.
What you can do to support your friend
- Talk to them. Get in contact with them, even just via email or text.
- Find out a bit about the kind of cancer they have and what treatments they will be receiving.
- Hang out with them! Sometimes you’ll need to have serious conversations, but sometimes laughing and doing fun stuff will be just what your friend needs.
- Do something to help them or bring along something nice, maybe their favourite food, a magazine, music or movies they like, a card filled with messages from friends…
- Keep things normal. So if you used to talk about footy heaps or share music or whatever it is that you enjoyed together, keep doing it (even if it does have to happen in a hospital room).
- Here are some ideas for things you could say to your friend: “I care about you and I’m here for you”, “Do you want to talk about anything in particular?” (Give them the chance to set the terms of the conversation), “Call me whenever you need to talk.”
Some tips for what not to do
A lot of the time when someone close to us gets cancer we can worry about doing and saying things that will offend them. Most of the time this worry is unnecessary; your friend will know that you’re not trying to hurt them. Having said that, it is always handy to know a few things to avoid!
- If you’re feeling sick, avoid visiting your friend. Cancer patients can have reduced immunity and catching a cold/flu can have a much more serious effect on them than you. Just give them a call or text instead.
- Forcing them to talk about their cancer or ignoring the fact they have cancer. Try to let them take the lead and they will talk about their cancer if they want to. The same goes for focusing on the negative aspects of their situation — you don’t need to talk about it unless your friend leads the conversation that way.
- Bringing along a huge group of other friends with you to visit – this can be tiring and overwhelming. Always check ahead before bringing extra visitors.
- Comparing your friend’s cancer with other people’s cancer. Everyone’s cancer is different and comparing them can simply be misleading and discouraging.
- Don’t be over the top with sympathy
- Don’t say you understand, unless you really do
You can also read a story written by a real young person about their friend having cancer.