October 15, 2018 • Veronica Kimani
“Cancer wasn’t the most painful thing to happen to me, it was the fact that my friends moved away, unsure of themselves.” In the blog post, ‘When cancer strikes – how to be a friend’, the writer speaks to 40 year old Ted who draws from his own experience sharing that the most important lessons following his own diagnosis were on how to be a better friend to someone dealing with cancer.
In this blog post we discuss 5 ways.
1. Process your own feelings.
The news of a cancer diagnosis affects your loved one in the most profound ways but it’s important to process your own worries and feelings as the first step to being fully present for them. Sharing your fears with someone else you trust is one way to make you a stronger, more emotionally balanced and well informed source of support. Not only is it important to take time to check in with yourself before reacting in a way that may hurt your loved one, but it’s also important to grow a trusted support system for your friend.
2. Take time to be well informed.
Although this experience may present in all ways unfamiliar, knowing a little more about the changes and challenges your friend will be faced with will make you feel more prepared in showing them support through every emotional and physical upheaval (and with a little more empathy). In some cases, your friend may want to discuss very little about the disease and this might be because it’s exhausting to have to repeat this constantly. As a friend looking to show support, it’s important for you to proactively seek information from trusted sources such as a doctor, a mutual caring friend, or a trusted spouse. It’s important to note that your key role is a source of support and you might share different opinions with your loved one especially on the choices they choose to make. Here are a few things you should be mindful to avoid saying as you seek to be more sensitive and respectful to your friend’s choices and how their experience with cancer is affecting them.
Information on cancer available here:
Faraja Cancer Support- https://farajacancersupport.org/
Cancer Care Kenya- https://www.cancercarekenya.com/
3. Treat your loved ones the way you always have.
Sure your time together might include less nights of binge drinking or expensive travels, but do your best to create a sense of normalcy to help your friend feel grounded in the things they love and enjoy. It’s important to humanise this experience amidst all the doctor appointments and talks on cancer by reminding them of who they are even with the new diagnosis.
Allow your friend to laugh with you over what they loved most about their favorite TV series and if they don’t want to talk about how the illness is making them feel on that day, let it be. On a different day, sadness may be overwhelming- allow for a space that holds both days.
“In fact, sometimes, don’t talk” Ted adds while sharing from his own experience with cancer. Affirm your loved one that you’re comfortable sitting in silence with a book you enjoy and you’re simply ready to listen when they are. Being present in a physical form with a ready ear allows your friend to have control over this one safe space- knowing they can choose to be be quiet for an entire hour with the comfort of knowing you’ll return.
5. The little things matter most.
It’s important to be consistent in caring for your friend, especially in ways that may seem small to you. Perhaps a more proactive way of communicating “I’m here if you need me” looks like “what type of milk do you like? I’m happy to drop a couple of bottles every Thursday on my way home.” This allows your loved one to say yes or no, and also shows that you truly care and are ready to show your support in a variety of ways. Sharing affirmations should not be taken for granted. Can you imagine the challenges your friend faces in asking for help without feeling like they’re inconveniencing the people around them? With this in mind, remind your loved one that you do not expect them to return the favor and are there because you care.
Remember their needs may change over time, so it’s important to stay mindful of this and to be prepared to shift plans if need be.
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