Support from family and friends can contribute to a patient’s positive state of mind following a lymphoma diagnosis. Many people don’t know how to treat a friend with cancer and they worry about saying or doing the wrong thing. Some ways that friends can help are:
Be an Empathic Listener
Make yourself available to your friend and let them know that you are here, that you care about them and that it’s okay to talk about what they are going through. When your friend is ready to talk, let them talk. It is important to listen without trying to problem-solve. Often patients just need a good listener as opposed to someone who is going to try to fix their problems. Also listen to how they talk, not just what they say. Try to hear what they mean but may not be able to say.
Alleviate Guilt and Self-blame
Many patients blame themselves for their diagnosis. They may think that if they had eaten better, exercised more or managed stress better, perhaps they would not have gotten cancer. Being able to provide support around the idea that the patient is not to blame is also something important a friend can do. This empowers patients to take care of themselves, be proactive in their treatment and it prevents them from feeling hopeless.
Help with Daily Routines
As the patient moves from diagnosis to treatment and beyond, there may be more practical support a friend could offer, particularly during treatment, which may take quite a toll on the body and limit what a patient can do. Some examples of things friends can do to help include being available to help with childcare or helping out with meals and errands. What kind of help a patient may need from friends depends on the patient. Additionally, some people with cancer may be reluctant to ask for help, so a friend may need to be more proactive in initiating. Others may feel more self-sufficient and would prefer to manage their daily tasks on their own for as long as they can.
Role for Co-workers
Co-workers and casual friends can also support a lymphoma patient by offering statements of care and concern and making reasonable offers of assistance, like completing a work task or filling in as needed. The one thing friends should not do is underestimate the role they can play in patients’ recovery. Having the social support that a patient needs helps the patient cope with their illness.