Though it’s a situation we all hope to never happen, a diagnosis of cancer in a friend or loved one is always a real possibility. If you’ve never been close to someone with a severe illness, it can be a bit daunting trying to figure out the proper etiquette. When someone close to you has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, here are some things to keep in mind.
Offer Help but Don’t Insist
People going through treatment may not have the energy to keep up with their regular daily tasks and chores, and can usually use a hand getting things done. They may also just be too busy with appointments to manage some of their usual activities. A helping hand is always appreciated. But you also have to graciously accept it if they say no, even if you are certain they need it.
And instead of just asking “Can I help?”, offer something specific. You’re more likely to be taken up on it if you are offering to get a few groceries for them, or watch their kids some afternoon.
Learn About It
There is nothing wrong with asking a few questions about the disease, but a person can get pretty tired of answering the same questions after a while. Colorectal cancer isn’t as well-known as other types so you probably will have some questions. Do your own research before inundating your friend with questions or comments.
Cancer of the bowels can be a little more embarrassing to discuss, so don’t be too pushy when asking questions either. Needless to say, if someone doesn’t want to talk about the details, don’t bug them about it. Look it up for yourself instead.
On the other hand, if your friend or loved one does want to talk, you should be there to listen, even if the details are unpleasant. Talking about what’s going on for them can be a great therapy in itself, so you should be able to simply listen no matter what they need to tell you.
Keep It Upbeat
Obviously you won’t always be able to avoid the subject, but no matter the specific topics of conversation, try to always have a positive attitude. Even when you’re talking about their cancer or treatment, don’t let the conversation get depression or morbid. Nobody wants that.
Accept Cancellations Graciously
Schedules can go out the window when someone is dealing with cancer, and you need to be a good friend to roll with any changes that come up. So your friend has had to reschedule that coffee 4 times already? Smile and book a time for the 5th attempt.
Plan Your Visits
An unexpected drop-in can be a very fun surprise, except when it’s at a bad time. Play it safe and always call before going to see someone, and that way you know that you’re not going to show up at a bad or difficult moment when your friend really doesn’t want to see anyone.
Don’t Play Doctor
So you’ve done some of your own research into colorectal cancer. That doesn’t make you some kind of diagnostic genius. A suggestion or two may be fine as long as you don’t try to completely redirect someone’s treatment because you feel you’re some kind of expert.
Image: Kathleen Conklin