How do you help a friend that has cancer?

By: Maise (Spain)

It always starts out the same it seems … on a seemingly normal day … and then you get some unexpected and distressing news … after which you are completely shocked and are left to digest it.

And that’s how it was … coming home after a happy afternoon at the theater with my family, feeling happy and at peaceful … when I suddenly received a whatsapp:

“Something incredible happened … I have a tumor.”

I got home and couldn’t stop thinking about what to do … what´s appropriate, what´s not appropriate … what to ask or what to say, so as not to make my friend uncomfortable and actually help her. I was incredulous. I tried to empathize with her, though knowing that I couldn´t even begin to imagine how she felt, her fears and her needs. It stressed me out.

Little by little with her I learned that the best thing to do is just to behave as I would normally do. I realized that who could best guide me in this new part of our lives was her. I realized that even if sometimes I couldn´t be how she needed me to be (as I am not a mind reader), she knows me and could see my good intentions … she would even smile at me.

I could feel us getting closer every day, and our relationship got stronger as we went through new adventures and investigations on this new journey of overcoming this huge life battle:

  • We would visualize that the best is yet to come while we took her daughter to learn to fly in a wind tunnel on her 10th birthday
  • I learned that she was more beautiful bald than she was with her hair and that´s what I would tell her (because I truly believed it) while looking in the mirror we watched as her long hair fell out
  • We looked for cute hats and the wig that best fit her style and made her feel most comfortable
  • I got used to opening the cupboards and closets in her home, while she was having treatment, as if I was in my own home, so that I could be helpful for her when I stayed with her
  • We had long conversations and learned to ask each other about how we were … while sometimes I would just sit with her while she napped on the sofa
  • I would laugh when I would see that she didn´t lose her glamorous side … when she would come back from her treatment wearing a fashionable purse that was too heavy for her to carry
  • We discovered many new things, TED talks, meditation, healthy brunch alternatives that she could manage to keep down while she was having her treatments
  • And always trying to bring humor and lots of love to our interactions

I learned that the best way to help a friend that has cancer is just being there. You can´t heal them, so you can only accompany them. And you realize that by being there with them you are giving yourself many things: new experiences, self-discovery, and a new understanding of real friendship …

Today our relationship is stronger than before, 2 years after receiving that terrible news I got via whatsapp and having to include the word cancer in our conversations.

Just being there.


3 thoughts on “How do you help a friend that has cancer?

Francisco Valverde
17 January 2021

Te quiero, Maise, y me has recordado a una situación parecida, en el horrible año 2019, que viví antes del 2020 desconcertante en el que aún estamos sumidos. Si me animo os lo relataré, a Jessica también, porque mi propósito para 2020 fue no llorar más por el 2019, y eso implica no recordarlo demasiado.

    17 January 2021

    Muchas gracias por leernos Francisco ! Claro que nos encantaría leerte a ti también – seguro que encuentras cosas positivas (¡serendipia!) que contarnos y aprenderemos contigo. TÚ eres el héroe.

17 January 2021

Maise! What a beautiful rendering of supporting your friend and friendship. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. YOU are the hero.

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