Who Is My Friend?
When working with cancer patients and their families, a common thing I hear is "I'm surprised by my friend." People say they are surprised by a friend they didn't imagine would be present or are hurt by someone, once supportive, who has now "ditched" them. While it is comforting when unsuspecting individuals "step up," it can be equally challenging when close friends do not. It' s hard to understand why people step away when we are going through a challenging time. Perhaps they are too busy and stressed themselves to be supportive. Maybe they have experienced someone else in their life who has, or had, cancer and it brings back painful memories. The possibilities are endless and are, for the most part, out of our control. One thing we can take charge of is being a good friend to someone when they have cancer. Below are some ideas.
- Send a card or text to say you are thinking about them. We don't receive "snail mail" often and a handwritten note carries a lot of meaning.
- If they call you.... return their message and do it quickly!
- When you talk to them or text them, say you'll be in touch soon and follow through with that promise!
- Check in with their caregiver to find out what the patient's (and caregiver's) needs are.
- Ask them how they are doing today, this morning, this afternoon. It is an easier question to answer because it is specific and may allow for more honesty and transparency.
Give patients room and permission to feel whatever they are feeling - sad, happy, hopeful, frustrated. In our classes, patients have shared it's difficult to be told they are brave or strong, when it doesn't match with where they are at emotionally. Asking questions and listening without judgement is invaluable. Sometimes, sitting together in silence might even be what's needed most.
What has a friend done for you that you found helpful? Please share so we can all sharpen our friendship skills!