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jca2's avatar

What, if anything, would you say or do for a family friend who was just diagnosed with cancer?

Asked by jca2 (12227points) July 24th, 2019

I asked about the cancer itself here:

A family friend was just diagnosed with cancer. He and his wife are both friends of mine, and their children are friends with my daughter.

When he was in the hospital, I reached out to both him and his wife and said if you need anything, please let me know, and I offered to take the kids to dinner and stuff like that.

Now he’s home and his wife was the one who texted me and told me he has a positive diagnosis, and is going for more tests.

Their lives are carrying on as usual, so far, with taking the kids places and working, etc.

I don’t know if I should text and say something kind, or send something like a card, or just do nothing.

My mom had cancer but that was slightly different, as the boundaries of my relationship with my mom were different than this, a family friend.

What have you done in a similar situation? What should I do?

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19 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

When I had cancer, I was the single mother of a 10 year old and a my family was useless. The most helpful and appreciated things to me were people bringing food, taking my daughter to movies or out for fun events. These things were most appreciated when I was further along in treatment and therefore really tired.
And audiobooks. I didn’t really have the energy to read, so audiobooks helped a lot.
Cards were always appreciated.

And they are(will be) kind of overwhelmed, instead of asking “what can I do?” every time, make suggestions.

Good luck to your friend.

johnpowell's avatar

When I was diagnosed I just wanted to be left alone. They have enough stuff going on without out you being all up in their business.

And really, they probably don’t know much at this point. It takes a while to find out the severity and exactly how you are going to be treated. And they are going to have a lot of doctors appointments coming up. It is overwhelming and it gets tiring coming up with polite ways to tell people to fuck off.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would just touch base every so often, once a week or so, and just say, “How’s it going?”


ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

“When I was diagnosed I just wanted to be left alone. They have enough stuff going on without out you being all up in their business”

This is what I would want for myself. The people who know me well know that I won’t offer help but if they need it they just have to ask for it. I hate that when someone gets sick others around them use it for virtue signaling. It’s the most annoying thing ever, especially if you’re the one sick.

If it’s not someone close I generally keep my distance for a while and only step in when it’s appropriate to do so. I’m not the best at judging that point though.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree with @ARE_you_kidding_me and @johnpowell. I think I would appreciate people touching base, making it known they are there for me, but not all up in it. It would be an extremely private affair to me.
Rick and his whole family are exactly the opposite. OMG, talk talk talk, gossip gossip gossip. I couldn’t pee purple without his whole freaking family knowing about it and calling me. I finally put a stop to that shit.

chyna's avatar

Each person is different. In Johnpowell’s case, he didn’t have kids so he didn’t have to make sure they were engaged, entertained, etc. And I would feel as he did.
But canidmajor has kids that she needed help with while she went through some awful stuff. I think you have to know the person and consider their needs.

rebbel's avatar

I would like to think that if one of my relatives and/or friends gets the diagnosis cancer that I wouldn’t change my my behavior very much.
The cancer would probably be a talking point (probably more so right after diagnosis), but I would try to search for signals from the friend if they are up for it;I’d leave it up to them whether to discuss it at length (together) or not.
About offering help (“if I can do something, anything, for you; let me know”), I wouldn’t offer that.
The person in question already knows that they I’m ready for them, that I’m there for them.
For people that I don’t consider friends, or not tight friends anyway (acquaintances) , I would also be ready to jump in, but they most probably, and hopefully, have their own helper friends.

zenvelo's avatar

I have told friends who have been diagnosed, ” let me know if you need grocery shopping done, or if you need a ride to the doctor’s office.” I just offer to be of service and to be present.

kritiper's avatar

Fix them up a nice casserole and take it over.

mazingerz88's avatar

I would do what you did. At least once I would ask if there’s anything I could do for that friend. Make it clear that if something comes up which I could be of assistance with that he must not hesitate to ask.

Anything else would depend on how close and how much I know of this friend enough to maybe send him something I was sure he would appreciate or a simple gesture like cutting his grass maybe.

canidmajor's avatar

It’s a lot easier if you don’t have kids, as @chyna said. If there are not-sick people in the house, anything that gives the main caregiver a break is a good thing. Meals they don’t have to cook, childcare, even for an hour or two, that they don’t have to worry about, these are gifts beyond price.

Cupcake's avatar

I like some of these cards for cancer.

I think that the “let me know if I can do anything” is easy to say (I say it too), but difficult for the other person to implement. Perhaps, “I would love to bring you over a dinner, please let me know some favorite foods and a night that I can drop it off.” or “I’d be happy to have your little one over while you are tending to appointments or if you need a rest.” Something small and practical that you can offer that shows you care.

I also am a fan of personalizing. Does this person have a favorite team or food or artist or musician, etc.? Send them something beautiful/peaceful/comforting, etc. A comfortable blanket, fuzzy socks, herbal tea, a movie…

JLeslie's avatar

I’ve never had cancer, and I’m sure people who have had cancer know much better than me what is really appreciated.

I would offer to take the children for an outing or just anytime to come play at your house to give the parents time to discuss things, medical appointments, adult discussions, and have a break from the kids. It’s summer, so I’m guessing the children are underfoot most of the day. I would assume a serious cancer serious cancer diagnosis for a parent with young children is mixed with wanting to be with your kids as much as possible and also not wanting them to have to deal with all the hardships of the treatment.

Since the wife texted you, I’d emphasis you are there for her if she ever needs to talk. I’d say it more than once, like at the end of a conversation or text I’d write, “call or text me any time.” If you don’t hear anything for a week or two maybe send a text asking how things are going, and that you are thinking about them. Maybe ask her out to lunch if that was something you usually did anyway. Give her a couple of dates see if they work.

Hopefully, he won’t decline quickly, hopefully he will be able to go into remission (do they use that word still?). Right now you don’t know anything about a treatment regimen and what their needs might be in that realm.

Do they have family nearby? I find typically if there is a lot of family nearby they fill a lot of the needs. If family is far then friends become even more important to actually be there physically to help with children or bring over some food.

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Dutchess_III's avatar

Not every one with cancer appreciates the same kind of things @JLeslie. Just like people who are grieving. Some want to be left alone, some want to be surrounded by family and friends.

JLeslie's avatar

^^of course.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was responding to your comment that ”I’m sure people who have had cancer know much better than me what is really appreciated.” They don’t all appreciate the same things just because they have the same disease.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Of course, but I would never pretend to know all the feelings that come with a diagnosis as serious as lung cancer, and the fears and worries added to the situation by having young children. I can try to imagine it, and friends have told me about their experiences, but living through something like that has to be different than what I can imagine. I’m just trying to acknowledge that my answer might be faulty since I haven’t been through it.

There have been times when I was sick that I thought I didn’t want anyone around, and then people came to visit and it helped. So, it can be very hard to know even what we want or would appreciate for ourselves. Let alone guessing what someone else would appreciate.

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