When you are in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with cancer you must understand that they will go through a whole gamut of emotions; from depression to bitterness, shock and anxiety, anger and fear.
Their feelings of vulnerability and loneliness will increase as will their mood swings. They can talk through their fears to reduce them and that is where you come in. Listen well to what they say and let them say whatever they like.
They have to come to terms with their illness and they can only do this in stages. They may be negative for some time and that will be hard to listen to but you must take it in your stride and empathize.
Accept what they say as being natural and that will put them at their ease and they will talk more openly with you.
However, find out if they want to talk at all. Maybe they want to carry on with their daily lives in as normal a manner as possible and shun all mention of their diagnosis.
This is also natural. Wait for them to come to you to talk about their illness and when they do make sure you let them know that you have all the time to listen to them. They may indicate that they don’t want body contact in which case refrain from hugging them until you’re sure they don’t mind.
Don’t give advice unless you are positive it will be well received and then couch them as suggestions.
To know more about the kind of cancer that your friend is suffering from look it up in books or the Internet, talk to your doctor or any knowledgeable person. Arm yourself with information and then you can be more receptive when your friend talks to you about the disease.
But don’t bombard them with the information you have accumulated wait until they show an inclination to listen to what you know.
Again, you might be more comfortable giving practical support rather than emotional.
First, find out if your help is needed in any way and what exactly you can do. Maybe you can help them with grocery shopping or baby-sitting when they need to go to the hospital for their treatment.
Do what you can and don’t take on too much. Ask others to help out as well so that you are not overwhelmed.
Spending time with a friend who has cancer is also helpful. They will be having mixed feelings about their illness and knowing that there are friends around to share their news with and feeling a part of a group will help them work through their sentiments.
Be sensitive and attuned you help more than you know.