“Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.” – Anonymous
Cancer. The most dreaded conversation topic to encounter. It’s filled with sadness and anger because it comes into our life with no warning. It’s never in our long-term plan to have our loved one become ill. Cancer makes us question everything. I’m pretty sure all of us have had someone close to us diagnosed yet we don’t know how to have a conversation about the pain that lingers and revolves around the disease. It’s life threatening yet mysterious and the consequences keep us hesitant to really dive deep into the topic.
The why and the how are never answered and as much research money has been put into finding a cure, we are still at a loss. All we have to hold onto is hope and a miracle. This profound unknown makes it a sensitive subject and hard to discuss. It’s not like breaking a leg and explaining, well this happened because I fell off a tree. When we talk about cancer we can’t understand what went wrong. Sometimes the happiest healthiest people we get cancer, which makes it even more confusing!
There are many survivors but it’s a long a painful journey. It takes a community of love, support, and financial assistance to make a miracle.
A few weeks ago I was speaking to a friend, and we were talking about their trip back home and all the adventures with family and friends. As we were catching up I had no idea the conversation would turn. After a few moments of silence he said, “My godfather has throat cancer.” I’m not sure if it was because I was not prepared, or I didn’t know enough about his family my response was not ideal. As someone new in my life, I didn’t even know how to hold him during this time of support. Instead of diving right in, I wanted to ease the conversation into talking about the cancer. I tried to go around it by asking how close they were and how their family met his godfather. I didn’t feel comfortable hitting the spot right away and just hearing him out. I also felt that getting to know more about his godfather would help me find a personal experience with one of my loved ones that I could share and be able to relate to his feelings. I’m also a very emotional person and just talking about the subject can bring me to tears in an instant, trying to be strong for him and the pain I hold for my loved ones was a challenge.
It was definitely the wrong route, not what he wanted to hear. I came across as cold or uncaring about his feelings and what he’s going through.
We all have a different ways to show love and to feel love. In this case, even being supportive can come off differently to each one of us. Cancer is a subject we don’t learn how to talk about or how to support those we care for and sometimes in moments of need we don’t know what we are seeking to find relief. I decided to open up the conversation with my girlfriends on what’s important to feel that support, what can we do to help our friends when their loved ones have been diagnosed.
1. Just be by their side
“Acknowledge their feelings and emotions. Don’t avoid talking about the tough stuff, especially if they are opening up to you. If you find that they’re indecisive or less talkative, just be by their side. Everyone processes their pain differently and just your presence helps them feel better. Don’t expect them to know what they want or need at the time because it can change day to day, make suggestions as to take a walk or watch a show together. Support them with love and create a space to hold them up.”
-Renessa Strong renessa.tv
2. Use your financial resources and community
“Supporting them financially in any way possible is crucial. You can create a campaign to raise money to help them with their treatment, cost of taking care of themselves and their family while they are out of work. Today’s medicine is extremely pricey and in order to get the right healing, money is a deterring factor. It’s devastating when people you care for decide to stop treatment and medications in order to help their family avoid the burden of taking on the bills. If you have a large following create an event or Facebook funding to raise money to relieve the family from the economic stress as much as possible.”
-Linda Lowry www.youcaring.com
3. Recreate traditions
“It’s a long and drawn out process, lots of ups and downs, advancements, then setbacks. Some days it’s easy to accept and other days you’re in denial that the person you love has cancer. The most important thing is to talk about the good times. Keep the positive memories alive such as family recipes, family traditions, talk about what can be continued and carried forward. It helps to do this because it reminds you of happy times and recreating activities you enjoy.”
-Erin Danielle www.lyrelmedia.com
4. Don’t feel like you have to fix their sadness
“It’s not about trying to fix their sadness, because they’re in a state of grief and shock. They’re thinking of whether or not their loved one will survive and thinking of the agonizing treatments and journey they will embark. What they are feeling at the moment, even if it’s sadness and anger, is exactly how they need to be and there is no need to feel like you have to change it. Just be present and give them what you can. Being present is the biggest gift you can give. On another note, when spending time with someone who has cancer, you might find that they get fixated on a subject or a memory and will want to continue talking about it or doing things that remind them of the person they love. Bond with them over their memories, participate in whatever they are fixated with and truly listen
-Ava Holmes www.avajholmes.com
5. Always check-in, don’t wait for them to call you for help
“Never ever tell a friend that is grieving or going through a tough time to call you if they need anything because you know what? They won’t. You have to make contact and keep in touch. Set a reminder on your calendar for the next few months to just check-in on the same day so you don’t forget. It’s hard to ask for help sometimes, especially in painful situations. You’ll make a bigger impact as a friend and support if you stay supportive for months. Most people are there when they initially hear the news but then go back to their normal lives and forget the person in their life with pain is grieving and will be for a long time. Try to bring normality in their life, do something together and make time for them.
-Tracy Klinkroth www.chickchat.net
6. Don’t treat them differently
“The best tip is to stay real with your friend. I think that people start to feel like they are being treated differently, or that people are afraid to talk about certain things – and this becomes isolating for both people. It’s great to simply acknowledge real feelings, to cry if you need to, to keep your heart open, to hold their hand when they need it.”
-Stephanie Sprangers www.glamhive.com