One person's hands holding another's

Help Your Friends Help You

As I read different posts and discussions amongst my fellow cancer patients, the topic of friends feeling awkward, saying or doing the wrong things, or, worst of all, ghosting us comes up. I believe all my friends want to help, but they just don’t know how. This article is part one of sharing how I believe others can help their friends with lung cancer.

Supportive conversations help your friends with lung cancer

The hardest part for others is accepting the reality of the situation. I have incurable lung cancer that is treatable. Please don’t discount the severity of my diagnosis and tell me I will be cured. Ask me questions. Seek to understand the diagnosis and how I feel about my situation. Open-ended questions help us discover what is possible together. 

Note: open-ended questions cannot be answered with a yes or no.

Please avoid false hope. I have incurable lung cancer. Please don’t tell me I will be the first person cured. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to explain the severity of the situation when others provide false hope.

I need your help

One of the beautiful results of being diagnosed with a serious disease is that people want to help. Providing meals, rides, shopping, picking up prescriptions, cleaning the house, doing yard work, and supporting my primary caregiver are great ways to help your friends with cancer.

Asking me to make more decisions adds to my mental load

Please do not ask me, nor my caregiver, how you can help. This burdens us to figure out how you can be of service, and, unfortunately, we have enough on our minds with all we are dealing with. The best option is to think about what you want to do - and do it. You cannot make a mistake when you are helping. 

One final note, if you have taken on a helpful task, please do not call me to make choices. Again, it is one more burden I don’t want at the time. Just make your best guess, and I will be happy.

Please, do not prescribe

We all want to be helpful. Stories about your other friends with cancer using different and unique cures are not necessarily helpful. I already have a plethora of professionals telling me what I should do. Each person and each type of cancer is different, and each story shared has been transformed in all the tellings. The worst part is I feel an obligation to either try the prescription or explain why it doesn’t make sense for me. That is just extra pressure I would like to avoid.

Focus on the possibilities

As you learn to understand my situation and capabilities, help me find what is possible for me to do with you, others, or alone. My original thoughts were around all that I was losing or was no longer physically, mentally, or emotionally capable of doing. Conversations and questions help me discover what I can do and enjoy. There are so many possibilities out there that you can guide your friends with cancer to see and experience.

I was an avid surfer and believed I would never enjoy the experience again because cancer and chemo destroyed my balance, physicality, and endurance.  My friend listened and suggested I paddle into the surf, holding onto his board as he dragged me out. Then I just sat and talked with the other surfers enjoying the experience. Finally, I rode a wave in on my belly.  Was it the same? No. But I found a joy in the experience I believed I would never feel again.

Be sure to read "Help Your Friends Help You, Part Two" here.

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