It’s a scary situation, but you can help.
Make sure your friend knows that they can talk to you about what they’re going through. Even the uncomfortable stuff. Avoid rolling your eyes á la Hermione.
Bring them juicy gossip.
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Distraction is invaluable during a long illness, and everybody loves a good piece of gossip. If you’re stuck in your house or in hospital for a while, any glimpse into the outside world is a delight.
Buy them a magazine subscription.
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Magazines are great for flicking through when your energy levels are low, or while receiving chemotherapy.
Bring them flowers.
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It’s a cliché to get a sick person flowers, but if you’re stuck at home for ages anything which brightens up the place is gratefully received.
Having said that, if your friend is dealing with severe nausea it might be better to give the flowers a miss as the scent may be too much for them.
Offer to do a household chore.
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Nobody ever likes cleaning the bathroom, but if you’re spending a large portion of your time laid up in bed, jobs like that certainly aren’t what you want to do when you feel well enough to get up and out.
A dirty house can be a harsh reminder of a sick person’s limitations, so this would be much appreciated.
Give them some fancy body cream.
Smellies may usually be a bit of a boring present but chemotherapy can ravage the skin, leaving it dry and occasionally reptilian. A good body cream will be appreciated, although be careful of anything that’s heavily scented unless you know that your pal isn’t suffering with nausea.
Let them play with your Tinder.
Truth be told, this is something nice you can do for any of your friends who aren’t Tindering themselves.
Flicking through the profiles when it’s not your romantic life at stake is a genuine thrill.
Give them a really nice lip balm.
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When your body is run down your lips often become dry and sore, so a really nice lip balm is essential.
This goes for guys too. Sore lips are sore lips, no matter what your gender!
Get them a Netflix subscription.
Don’t forget to add some recommendations, too!
Treat them to a visit from your pet.
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Can you think of anything more uplifting than a cuddle from a cute puppy or kitten? If you have one at your disposal, share the wealth.
Consider your pet’s temperment, of course, and check first, but if your friend is up for it this could be just what they need.
Do their supermarket shop for them.
Or just bring along some basics they can keep in the cupboard the next time you visit.
Offer them lifts.
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Your friend will almost certainly need help getting to and from the hospital for treatment and appointments. Even those who drive may not feel well enough after a day of chemo.
A lift is an easy way to offer significant help.
Use the post.
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A nice card or letter through your post box can give even the grimmest days a bit of a lift.
Treat them to a night in a spa hotel.
Your pal probably won’t be allowed to travel much during treatment, so a night at a nearby spa hotel can feel like an incredible escape.
Keep an eye on deals sites to avoid breaking the bank and be sure to check ahead which treatments are and aren’t suitable for people with cancer.
Make them a delicious meal.
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There will probably be days when your friend barely has the energy to get out of bed, let alone prepare themselves a dinner. Nutrition is important during cancer, so having a couple of meals in the freezer for days like that can be a massive help.
Check in with your friend ahead of time to make sure that their freezer isn’t too full, and that there aren’t any foods that they’ve suddenly gone off during their treatment.
Send them a big list of recommendations.
Your friend will probably have a lot more time to read, watch, and listen than they’re used to, so will exhaust their “to watch/read/listen” list pretty quickly.
Put together a document full of books, films, and podcasts you think they’d like but may not already be clued into. They’ll love you for it.
Give or lend them an e-reader.
Lugging a heavy bag to and from chemo is annoying but entertainment is essential. Lighten their load with an e-reader filled with books you think they’ll enjoy.
Try to include some light and frothy stuff too. On tough days their brain might not be able for anything too hefty.
Bake them something with ginger.
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Ginger is a great natural remedy for nausea, so if you know your friend is suffering, get baking. (Or buying. Buying is also acceptable.)
Don’t take it personally if you don’t see or hear from them.
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If your friend cancels plans, or doesn’t pick up the phone, it’s almost certainly not about you.
Low energy levels and unexpected sickness often prohibit someone with cancer from doing the fun things they had planned. Also, if they’re lucky enough to have lots of friends and family then their phone probably never stops ringing. Sometimes they just won’t be up for the chats. Sometimes they won’t be up for anything. Don’t take it personally.
Ask them what they need.
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Sometimes it’s difficult for a person who’s normally independent and self-sufficient to ask for help, so don’t be offended if they say they don’t need anything, but don’t necessarily believe them either.
Be persistent, and offer some of the specifics on this list if they keep turning you down. However, also keep in mind that sometimes what they need is space.
Keep in mind that needs change.
Cancer and its treatment can go on for a while, and what someone needs at the start can be different to what they need at the end.
Don’t assume that if your mate said they were fine at the start that they’re fine six months in. Cancer treatment is tough and may make your friend feel worse and worse as it goes along, despite the long-term positive outcome. Keep checking in.