Lend a hand: Ways to help a friend with cancer

When someone you care about tells you they have cancer, it’s difficult to find the right thing to say. Finding the right words or figuring out how to lend a hand, although difficult, might be easier than you think. As you spend time with you friend you’ll learn more about how cancer is affecting their everyday life. Tailoring your help to what they need most is the best way to be a friend. Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your quest on how to lend a hand.

Stay in touch
Frequently call, text, send emails or mail cards. Include an inspirational quote, photo or child’s artwork. Most of all, be yourself and show your friend how much you care.

Run errands and help with daily chores
Go to the grocery store, pick up the kids from school, clean the house, walk the dog or do the laundry. Helping with errands and daily chores on a regular basis can help your friend worry less and manage tasks more effectively.

Take your friend to treatment
Be an extra set of eyes and ears. Providing support while navigating through the healthcare system can be the perfect way to help.

Be the point person
Many people with cancer find it overwhelming to keep their friends in the loop. Offer to be the point person to reach out and provide updates to close friends. Keep track of flowers, meals, and gifts and help your friend write thank you notes.

Provide meals
Organize a group of friends and neighbors that can provide ready-made meals. Casseroles, soups and crockpot meals are a great place to start. Package everything in disposable containers and label with ingredients and cooking instructions. Remember to make note of dietary restrictions, favorite foods and the best time to deliver.

Schedule time with your friend in advance, but remember to be flexible just in case your friend needs to reschedule. Stay in or go out — either way, keep it fun. A few ideas — watch a movie, go to the spa, take a drive or do a project together.

Give a thoughtful gift
Gift giving is tricky. Be mindful of the overwhelming scents of flowers, food or perfume. Here are a few ideas:

  • Something to keep them distracted during treatment: magazines, puzzles, CDs, books or a journal
  • Something practical: a warm blanket, cozy socks or slippers
  • Something useful: a gift certificate for a service — housecleaning, yard work or shopping

Support caregivers and family members
Remember to ask caregivers and family members how they are doing. Offer to help where needed to give them a break.

Everyone’s journey is different, so you don’t have to stick to these tips. Do what works for your friend. Undoubtedly your unconditional support and willingness to help will be appreciated more than you know.