How can I help my friend who is ill?

Everyone is unique, so you need to tailor your help to fit your friend instead of relying on cookie-cutter advice. With that said, we have gathered some helpful pointers here on this page that can serve as starting points.

help friends

Encourage open communication

Encourage open commmunication. Make your friend feel that it is okay to talk frankly with you and not sugar coat things. A lot of missunderstandings can be prevented this way.

Sometimes we just need to vent

Be a safe place for your friend to vent. Allow all emotions to come out – even the “ugly” ones like envy and pettyness. Don’t be the person who immediately tries to cheer your friend up and sweap all “bad” feelings under the rug.

Offer practical help

A person struggling with cancer typically needs a combination of emotional and practical support. Think about what you are willing and able to provide in terms of practical help, and ask your friend about what they need. Also understand that for many, practical help also becomes emotional help, because it makes the person feel cared for.

Here are just a few examples of practical help:

  • Help with school work
  • If you drive, offer to drive them to some doctor’s appointments
  • If they are immuno compromised and should stay away from crowds, offer to shop for them

Naturally, any practical help should be given based on what you and friend have aggreed on. Don’t break into someones house to clean it without permission.

Check in with them

Sometimes, it is the small things that matters. Check in with your friend frequently, but also understand that they might be too tired to respond right away. Send a text message, give them a cute little note over social media private messaging, or why not write them an old fashioned card?

Do some research

Your friend has probably had to explain her disease and treatment for dozens of people already, who only mean well and try to show an interest, but who ultimately makes her feel like she’s a Cancer Teacher for the crowds.

Instead of expecting your friend to lecture you, do some research on your own. Learn the basics about cancer and cancer treatment first, and then go on to learn facts pertaining to her specific diagnosis. It will be easier for you guys to talk about her situation (if she wants to) when she notices that you don’t need her to explain every basic detail about cancer and her disease.

Take care of yourself

You are going through a though time too. Be kind to yourself and watch out for signs of burn-out. Put your own oxygen mask on first – then help the person in the seat next to you.

  • Find outlets where you can vent, but don’t use your sick friend for venting.
  • When boundaries need to be set, do so in a clear and open way. Don’t expect your sick friend to be a mind reader or pick up on your vague hints.

This article was last updated on: November 18, 2019