Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2021 at 11:34 am

If cancer has struck a loved family member or close friend, you’ll know the irrevocable changes brought to their life from the very moment of diagnosis…

As the disease progresses, patients may go through a range of symptoms, from extreme fatigue and nausea to hair loss, weight change and mouth sores. At such a taxing time, having emotional support and someone can make a world of difference to someone struggling with the disease.

Experts state that people battling the disease are better able to adjust to the changes cancer brings to their lives if they have the support of family and friends. Your help could take the form of emotional support, or practical aid, like making dinner and dropping it off, driving your friend to appointments, or keeping them company during treatments. Here are some other ways to help:

Stay in touch

Having cancer can be very isolating. Sufferers often feel separated from the rest of the world, facing a reality filled with many moments of fear. Letting them know they’re not alone as they walk this journey can bring great comfort. As Prof Michael Herbst, CANSA Health Specialist says, “To make a difference, ask no questions. Support, care, hug, smile, be there, and wipe away tears.”

Visit regularly

One-on-one visits could be a welcome distraction to help a patient feel like they did before cancer became the focus of their life. If they feel up to it, do something they find fun, like visiting a nursery, seeing a movie, or simply going for a walk together. Take your lead from them in what they want to talk about. Some people need to discuss their fears or vent their frustrations, while others simply want to talk about the world in general. Tailoring your help to what they need and want most is the best way to be a friend.

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Bring in calm

Facing your own mortality is frightening, and a sufferer may lie awake at night, focusing on their fear. Help bring about calm by signing your friend up to a subscription for a good stress-relieving app. Great choices are Calm, which aims to lower anxiety and boost tranquillity, Headspace, which helps people to stress less and sleep more soundly, and Waking Up by Sam Harris, which offers guided meditation and mindfulness techniques for a calmer mindset.

Provide support

Cancer can cause extreme tiredness, and patients are often too weak or sick to deal with never-ending house chores or clean up. A great way to show help is booking a cleaner for a morning or a whole day through SweepSouth. This affordable and easy-to-use online service allows you to book a verified, reliable cleaner for a morning or a day, to either do a house-clean, or focus on time-consuming chores your friend may simply not have the energy for, like laundry and ironing.

Something tasty

Nausea is a common symptom, making it hard to stick to healthy eating habits at a time when maintaining good nutrition is critical. Small healthy treats to snack on during the day are a good option, like nuts, dried fruit, muffins, fresh fruit and juices. Patients can experience dryness and sores in the mouth and throat during chemo, so soft foods may help if it hurts to eat. A liquidiser for smoothies also makes a great gift.

Pamper time

Anything that’s fun, humorous or pampering can help perk up a patient. Cancer sufferers may experience fatigue for weeks or months, even after treatment ends, so a super-soft blanket and fuzzy socks can be comforting, both during a chemotherapy session and at home. Other great ideas include a device stand to support a phone or Kindle while the patient lies down, beautiful scarves, fun socks, and pretty earrings and bracelets. Chemo can also cause skin to feel extremely dry, so a rich moisturiser will be a welcome gift. It’s advisable to choose an unscented version, as chemo often affects a patient’s sense of smell, leaving even those who normally love fragrances overwhelmed by them.

As you spend time with your friend, you’ll learn more about how cancer is affecting his or her life, and find new ways to support them. Remember that friendship can make a lasting difference.


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