National Cancer Survivors Day is June 4th and with the amount of people cancer has affected, we want to share with you how you can be there for someone with cancer.
First off, if you know someone who has won the battle against cancer—CELEBRATE THEM TOMORROW. For so many, it is a long and exhausting road and to finally get to the point where cancer is in the rear view mirror is something to be celebrated.
For those of us who have a friend or family member recently diagnosed or going through treatments, your support matters. Most of us are fixers by human nature and when someone we care about has a devastating illness like cancer, we want to try to “fix” it. Well…it’s just not possible and that can be frustrating. It could also lead us to avoid interaction with the person because we feel helpless.
Feeling helpless is uncomfortable. To add to it, if we just don’t feel like we have the right things to say, avoiding can seem like the easiest thing to do. By doing this, we are limiting support to them when they need it the most and missing out on an opportunity to grow in the process.
On the other hand, we may not avoid them or the situation, but rather we avoid talking about anything non-related to their cancer. We talk only about the disease and all that goes with it because we feel that no other issue is significant in their lives. While it shows an interest in what they are going through and helps them to verbally express the journey, they still want the same conversations, jokes and dialog you used to share.
Another thing some of us tend to do is speak, when we need to just listen or we make the mistake of trying to encourage them with phrases like, “look on the bright side” or “it could always be worse”. The good intentions may be there, but those type of bubbly, super-optimistic phrases may be difficult to process for someone who just had a negative reaction to chemo or is feeling worn thin.
Forget over-thinking, over-talking, over-fixing—they just need YOU. Yes, there will be uneasiness, but it is completely normal. Weird feeling of guilt because you are “healthy?”—normal. Feelings of awkwardness during conversations at first?—normal. They don’t need (or want) pity, just your sincerity. No avoidance, just real, authentic honesty.
Tell them your feelings and ask them questions to find out how much they are comfortable to talk about. Follow their lead. If they only want to talk about the disease, treatment, what they are looking forward to most with recovery, etc—follow them there. If they would rather not talk about it at all—go with it.
Being specific with ways you are willing to help really makes a difference. Saying, “If you need anything, just let me know”, could suggest to them that it was just a kind gesture rather than a legitimate offer. Offering to grab them lunch or their favorite snack on your way in next time, taking their kids to the park or bringing them dinner are ways to show a sincere offer. You can also organize a meal train for them with a group of friends, family or coworkers.
Depending on your relationship with them, continue as normal. Live life with them. <3