6 Ways to Walk a Cancer Journey with a Friend

When a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be difficult to know what to say and how to help. Here are some of the things I've learned along the way during my journey with cancer.

It’s never fun to hear that a good friend is dealing with any personal struggles. But it’s especially tough to find out they are facing a devastating illness like lung, skin, or metastatic breast cancer. If you are looking for the best ways to support a friend with cancer, follow these suggestions to help you navigate this emotionally and physically exhausting journey.

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Let Your Friend Guide You

A woman who learns she has cancer suddenly has her life upended. If you're her friend, you may feel at a loss for words and actions. Always keep conversations supportive and respectful. There are things you should and shouldn't say to a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. She likely won’t want to talk about her appearance. Change topics if she responds curtly when you ask how she is. Sometimes, she just needs to have a little normalcy in her life and not talk about her diagnosis or treatment all the time. Let her be the one to let you know when she needs to talk about fighting cancer and when she’d prefer not to think about it at all. She will know you are always ready with a listening ear. 

Never Naysay Her Choices

One tough thing about living with cancer is having to make decisions about your treatment and the next steps you should take. So much of what your friend is going through is a mental battle. To support a friend with cancer, affirm her decisions the moment she has made them. Otherwise, it may feel like you're telling her she made a bad move or that she should start reconsidering, and that's the last thing she needs to hear. Every cancer journey is unique, and how each person handles fighting their cancer is unique. Do your best to reserve judgment and steer her away from conversations where she may be second-guessing herself. 

Don't Expect a Reply

Your friend will so appreciate any and all small, meaningful gestures like sending her cards, texting her pick-me-up memes, or leaving voicemail messages to simply show your love and support. These random acts of support are sure to bring a smile to her face. Sharing something like “just know I love you and am praying for you—no need to call back” allows her to realize your support but relieves her of the pressure to reply. Sending these positive, loving messages at times when they are least expected can feel like gifts for cancer patients.

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Place Your Pal on Your Prayer List

It gives many people living with cancer great comfort to know that others are praying for them. Add your friend to your prayer list at home or at your church. Light a candle in her honor. Gift her with prayer cards, a special prayer book, or a prayer shawl so she can physically wrap up in your prayerful intentions. Offer to pray with her. Let her know she is in your prayers, and she will be so grateful for your spiritual support through her cancer treatment.

Offer to Help

Often we find it hard to accept help from our friends. But when we do, we realize it can make all the difference in our mindset and physical ability. When someone you know has cancer, you can offer help in a number of ways. You could set up a meal train. You could hire a cleaning service to stop in once a month to help relieve your friend of housekeeping duties. Set up a carpool to get her kids to and from school and other activities. Take her out to breakfast or lunch at a new coffee shop or restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Or simply offer to go along to any appointments, not only to keep her company but also to allow her to get a ride to and from. Your friend dealing with cancer may be slow to allow you to help in these ways, but that does not mean you should stop offering.

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Keep Laughing with Her

It may seem cheesy, but sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. When you are supporting a friend who has cancer, helping her see the humor in her journey or the world around her can be a gift. Go see the latest comedy on the big screen. Buy her a snarky coffee mug or T-shirt. Share a funny story about your kids. Your ability to make her laugh, or simply to laugh with her, will be treasured as much as the other ways you’ve shown cancer support and concern.

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