As much as you’re willing to do whatever it takes to support a loved one who’s been diagnosed with cancer, you’re not always going to say or do the right thing. This is one of the most important things you need to accept about trying to be supportive – you won’t always get things right, especially if the diagnosis was fairly recent.
You might at some point try to assure them that things will be fine, or that you want them to be part of your Pan-Florida Challenge Cancer Ride team, or that you’ll always have their back no matter what. But as well-intentioned as your words or actions might be, they’re not always going to be well-received. In any case, take your friend’s negative reactions with a grain of salt. You don’t need to be a cancer survivor to understand that they’re going through possibly the scariest, most confusing, and most harrowing time of their life. While they’re still the person that you know and love, the diagnosis has undoubtedly forced huge changes to their life and long-term perspective. And in order for them to properly process what’s happening, they’ll need some space and lots of understanding.
One thing that you can’t go wrong with is to simply be there for them as much as possible. Always show up when you tell them that you’ll show up. Whether it’s to drive them to their next cancer treatment, or to just help them with checking things off their list of chores, any type of support will be helpful – even if they’re reluctant to accept your help.
At the same time, given how the global health crisis has greatly limited everyone’s mobility, you might find it difficult to navigate both surviving COVID and being a supportive presence as well. Thankfully, even if you can’t always be there for your friend physically, there are countless ways of providing them with real support online. This can be as simple as stuff like regularly asking how they are through a messaging app, having their favorite comfort food delivered to their house, or even paying for their Netflix or HBO subscription. From reminding them that you’ll show up if they need you to get them entertaining and/or practical stuff to helping them through the day, you can do it all remotely through the web.
In fact, the Internet is also where you can access tons of resources that can help you and your friend better understand and process not just the physical but also the complex social and emotional factors that come with a cancer diagnosis. Apart from the basic facts and latest research on the type of cancer that your friend has, online you’ll also find support groups for people with cancer and their loved ones, cancer psychologists that may help you and your friend navigate this difficult time, or even information on alternative cancer treatments.
For instance, the online community Cancer Horizons, which managed to reach 100,000 caregivers and patients this year alone, is just one of the many different online cancer support groups you can look into joining. Apart from being able to talk to people facing a similar dilemma, support groups may also provide your friend with financial assistance programs, and even information on the latest cancer research breakthroughs. Another way the internet can help is through getting them to speak to a professional psychologist.
When choosing a cancer psychologist your options are pretty broad as well, particularly as there is now a much wider way for professionals to get their qualifications. Whoever you’re considering for the job, check their credentials to see whether or not they’re properly qualified. Yet, don’t rule out psychologists with online degrees. Web-based education has come a long way, and online academic degrees have long been proven to be just as valid and effective as degrees provided by traditional courses. Online psychology degree holders are just as intensively trained in clinical and social psychology in order to help a wide scope of patients. They will be able to help with behavioral healthcare and interpersonal connections. Knowing this is important because it can be hard to find a psychologist that both you and your friend will like and who will fit into your price range. And by not discounting a whole chunk of potential qualified candidates, you’ll have better chances of finding one that can help.
Accessing all this online is actually much more advisable given the overall situation. Remember that at any stage, cancer weakens the immune system. And the more you and your friend can access and accomplish online, the less they’ll have to be physically exposed to pandemic risks.
With that being said, this is just the start of a long and potentially bumpy journey. However, if you always show up when you say you will, leverage online resources to make things easier, and take both their physical and mental health into account, you might just inspire hope in someone who needs it the most.