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A Guide for the Clueless: How to Help a Friend with Cancer (Without Being Asked)

best friends hugging

Dear Loving, Clueless, Well-Meaning Friend,

So, you’ve got a friend with cancer, and you want to help but haven’t the faintest idea

how. Welcome to the awkward club!

As you grapple with the reality of having a friend with cancer, you may be wondering

how to support them. I understand your hesitation - no one ever wants to join this club,

but here we are. In our society that values independence and self-reliance, asking for

help can feel like wearing wet socks, uncomfortable and awkward. And sometimes, in

the midst of it all, it's hard to even know what kind of help is needed.

To save you from the cringe-worthy dance of "Let me know if you need anything"

(spoiler alert: we absolutely won’t), here are 25 ways you can swoop in like the hero you

are and support a cancer patient (or anyone with a chronic illness) without needing an

explicit invitation.

Yes, some of us are too proud to ask, and yes, we’re also silently screaming for help -

it’s complicated. Anyway, here’s your cheat sheet:

1. Drop-Off Groceries: No one wants to be seen in public in their PJs, let alone

someone with cancer. Bring us the essentials: milk, bread, veggies, chocolate.

Lots of chocolate.

2. Gift Cozy Blankets: Hospitals are cold, and so are our homes when we’re too

tired to move. A soft, warm blanket is like a hug we can keep. Fuzzy socks would

be divine.

3. Send Funny Cards: Humor helps. Trust me, we need laughs more than

sympathy. Cards with cats doing yoga? Perfect. Cards with cats doing yoga AND

cursing? Brilliant.

4. Clean the House: Nothing says “I care” like a clean toilet and vacuumed floors.

Just show up with cleaning supplies and go to town. Don’t ask, just do.

5. Babysit the Kids: Give us a break from parenting. Take the kids to the park, a

movie, or anywhere that isn’t our living room.

6. Organize a Meal Train: Coordinate with friends and family to bring meals. We’re

tired of our cooking, and it’s a relief not to think about dinner.

7. Do the Laundry: Because no one wants to wear dirty clothes, and we’re too

exhausted to deal with the pile that’s taking over the bedroom. Maybe just put the

chair laundry away?

8. Provide a Netflix Subscription: Distraction is a gift. Hook us up with some good

shows to binge-watch while we’re stuck in bed.

9. Walk the Dog, Feed the Cat: Our furry friends need exercise, and so do we, but

sometimes we just can’t. Take Fido for a spin. Pick up litter or catnip for Fluffy on

the way.

10. Give Rides to Appointments: Hospital parking sucks. Being dropped off and

picked up is a luxury. Offer to be our chauffeur. 5-star ratings for everyone!

11. Plan a Spa Day: We need pampering. Book a massage, manicure, or even a

simple foot rub. Being touched absent of medical poking and prodding could be


12. Send Care Packages: Fill them with snacks, books, puzzles, and other small

comforts. It’s a delightful surprise that breaks the monotony. Send adult snacks

we love too.

13. Lend an Ear: Sometimes, we just need to vent. Offer to listen without judgment

or unsolicited advice. Just listen. We won’t even know you’re working in the


14. Arrange a Virtual Hangout: Set up a Zoom call with friends to chat and catch

up. It’s social interaction without leaving the couch.

15. Help with Yard Work: Mowing the lawn or raking leaves is low on our priority list.

Your help keeps the place looking nice.

16. Pay for House Cleaning Services: If you can’t clean yourself, hire someone

who can. It’s a godsend.

17. Organize Fundraisers: Medical bills are outrageous and this is America. Set up

a GoFundMe or a community fundraiser to help ease the financial burden.

18. Bring Snacks to Chemo: Treatment days are long. Show up with snacks and

drinks to make the day a little brighter. Scrabble and puzzles can be a great

distraction too!

19. Create a Playlist: Music is therapy. Curate a playlist of uplifting songs to keep

our spirits high - you know the songs!

20. Offer Tech Support: Help us with our gadgets. Whether it’s setting up a new

phone or troubleshooting a laptop issue, tech help is invaluable.

21. Run Errands: Pick up prescriptions, grab that special tea from the store, or

return the library books. Little errands pile up. Also, the Amazon packages won’t

return themselves.

22. Decorate for the Holidays: Bring some festive cheer. Put up lights, decorations,

or even a small tree. It’s a mood lifter and a reminder that life goes on!

23. Send Fresh Flowers: A bright bouquet can light up a room and our mood.

Bonus points if they’re from your garden or better yet - mine.

24. Offer Pet Sitting: When we’re too sick to care for our pets, knowing they’re in

good hands is a relief.

25. Be Persistent: Don’t just offer help once and disappear. Keep checking in. We

might not always say yes, but knowing you’re there makes a world of difference.

There you have it. Twenty-five ways to be genuinely helpful without us having to spell it

out for you. Remember, we’re navigating a lot right now, and your proactive support can

make this journey a little less isolating.

With begrudging gratitude, a hint of sarcasm, and a heart full of love,

Your Friend with Cancer


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