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My Friend Is Ill and I Don't Know What To Say To Her

My Friend Is Ill and I Don't Know What To Say To Her

Dear Sugar
I’ve just found out that a very good friend of mine is sick. She has been diagnosed with Cancer and she’s only 33 years old. I feel awful; my heart aches for her and her family and it seems like I can never find quite the right words to express how I feel toward her.

What can I say to her so she’ll understand my devotion to helping her through this hard time? I don't want to pretend that I know what she is feeling but I want to convey my empathy and support. What can I do for her? Is there anything that I shouldn't say or do? Loyal Lourdes

To see DEARSUGAR’s answer

Dear Loyal Lourdes
I am sure that your friend knows how much you care about her. If you are feeling awkward and nervous don’t be; just relax and be there for her. The last thing that she wants is for people to be feeling uncomfortable.

It’s important to remember to drop in often and not to stay away. Distance will only make her feel alienated. Call whenever you are thinking of her, write a note, send some food or her favorite magazines to make her feel loved. Do specific things for her to help out that she’s unable to do herself, such as: run errands, get her dry cleaning, food shop, babysit, etc.. She’ll get the message; actions speak louder than words.

When the time is right, ask her if she wants to talk about her diagnosis. Let her lead the conversation; she’ll open up to you when/if she’s ready. Forcing her to talk about it may only make her feel depressed and sad. Keep your ears open when she’s speaking. Don’t do a lot of talking, just encourage her to express herself. Show support by being understanding, patient and loving to her.

There is one thing to be aware of when talking with her. Don’t speak openly about your fears. Talking to her about what makes you feel scared isn’t going to help her to feel better. She’s the one who needs comforting now; she’s really not in the position to help you to feel better about her illness. I hope this helps you.

Join The Conversation
rkdub rkdub 10 years
Hey, my boyfriend has had cancer a few times now, so I understand how hard it is to try to communicate things. The one thing I can tell you though, is that it is a much harder thing to deal with than people understand. Now, every time he gets a cold he is afraid to go to the doctor because he worries that the cancer has either spread or come back.... It is completely life changing, and there are going to be things about her treatment that are hard for you too. For instance, chemo has a lot more side effects than some people realize.... PM me if you want, I struggle with the same questions on communication myself!!!!
herbiefrog herbiefrog 10 years
>but I want to convey my empathy and support. my feeling in this? truth = thruth oops its jus t spelling doesn't change the facts truth can be hard to say... ...but there is no substitute luck...
BeachBarbie BeachBarbie 10 years
nicachica, I'm so glad you are better. :) I think your advice is great, and I loved it. DearSugar, JessNess, BlondeSugar, I also wanted to say, I thought all you gave excellent advice.
BlondeSugar BlondeSugar 10 years
Wow nina, I'm sure it was very hard, being so young and having to deal with all of that, but I'm sure it made you a much stronger, more compassionate person. Congrats to you!
jennifer76 jennifer76 10 years
Wow, nicachica. That's great for you!! And wonderful of you to do. Glad you got better. :D
nicachica nicachica 10 years
thanks blonde! i was 7 years old when i was diagnosed and it's been 14 years since i ended treatment so i feel like its always been a part of my life and has helped develop who i am as a person. i volunteer with a camp for kids with cancer (the one i used to attend) and that's been a really great support system througout the years. i hope Lourdes' friend can find something like that because as much as you want to be there for someone, there are times when the patient needs to talk to others who have gone through the experience and can completely understand what its like. i'll stop writing a book now!
BlondeSugar BlondeSugar 10 years
Wow ninachica. Glad you are OK now! :) Great advice :froggy:
nicachica nicachica 10 years
i think Dear's advice is on the nose. i had cancer as a child and the thing i hated the most was when people ignored me or patronized me by saying 'oh you poor thing' when really i just needed to be treated normally. of course, everyone's different but walking on eggshells around her won't help. ask her if you can tell her about your latest date or some funny story but don't force it. distractions like that will make her feel "more normal" as well. you're her friend and you can guage her mood so just go with the flow of how she's feeling. also, there are support groups out there for her and sometimes she'll need to talk to them because they'll understand her situation in a way that you won't be able to (i.e. the pain of chemo, the loss of hair, nasty treatments, etc). if you wanna talk more, PM me. good luck! you're friend is lucky to have someone as supportive and caring as you.
JessNess JessNess 10 years
My moms boss recently found out that he has cancer and is going through chemo. He is using it as an opportunity to change his life. He is chaning his diet, working out more and looking for a house to buy
BlondeSugar BlondeSugar 10 years
And I love DearSugar's advice as well
BlondeSugar BlondeSugar 10 years
I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. From your letter you can tell that you are a caring person and friend. Here is my advice: There's nothing you can say that can make her feel better. Just be there for her, she needs to know she has support from freinds, and family. Be there for her, physically and emotionally. Bring over movies and her favorite meal, or things that you know will cheer her up. Know when to listen. Realize that she is going to be very focused on herself, and try not to take things to personal. Think of how you would want to be treated if you were in her situation. Best of luck to the both of you.
JessNess JessNess 10 years
Maybe if you are unable to express anything you can do something for her. If your friend ends up going through chemo there are going to be a lot of things that are going to have to be done i.e cleaning their house ( a through cleaning with bleach because dust and mold is harmful) Maybe you can get her a little goodie bag of things she can do while she is at chemo (cause chemo sessions are long) or just laying in her bed such as books to read, puzzles, maybe even start painting. Dear is right though you shouldnt stay away. Even if you cant say anything the fact that you are there will mean more than words can ever say
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