7 things to remember when visiting someone with cancer

October 19, 2016 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

When you’re visiting a friend or family member with cancer, it is often hard to know what to say or do. It can also be difficult or upsetting to see someone we love not feeling well. Although you may be unsure how to approach the situation, your support can make a real difference.

Studies have found that cancer survivors with strong emotional support tend to better adjust to the changes cancer brings to their lives, have a more positive outlook and often report a better quality of life.

Follow these cancer etiquette guidelines when visiting your friend:

  1. Plan your visit in advance. No one likes an unwelcomed house guest. Plan your visit in advance so your friend is prepared and will look forward to spending time with you. You can also offer to keep your friend company during a chemo treatment or doctor’s appointment.

  2. Be flexible with the dates and times. On the day of the visit, your friend may be tired and not feeling well. Keep it flexible so your friend knows it’s okay to cancel. Don’t take it personally if you have to reschedule.

  3. Visit only when you are healthy. Many people in cancer treatment have a compromised immune system, so they may not be able to fight off common colds or flus as well. If you are feeling sick, stay home. Video chatting is another way to show support from afar.

  4. Offer to help. Before your visit, ask if you can bring or do anything to help out. Gifts like books, crossword puzzles, movies, magazines or a soft throw blanket are a nice gesture. You can also offer to help with tasks like laundry, carpooling or grocery shopping. Here are some other great ways to offer help.

  5. Talk about subjects other than cancer. Your friend may want a break from talking about the disease. Ask about topics unrelated to cancer like their children, interest or hobbies. Let your friend take the lead with the conversation, keep it about them, and just be there to listen and laugh.

  6. Don’t treat your friend any differently. Your friend is the same person you knew before they were diagnosed with cancer. Try not to shut them out because you are unsure how to act around them. Cancer can be lonely and isolating, so reassure your friend that you are here to support them. Use words like “I am here for you,” or “I am thinking of you.”

  7. Follow through and plan other visits. Cancer patients need help throughout the entire treatment process, not just at diagnosis. After your first visit is over, schedule additional visits. Your support and friendship matters even if they don’t say it.

How do you support a friend in need? Tell us in the below comments.

Learn more about cancer support services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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