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The Importance of Friend and Family Support When You Have Cancer

I don’t think there’s ever a time when friends and family are needed more than in a time of crisis. Being diagnosed with cancer is certainly a crisis! It was for me. A huge crisis. I desperately needed my family to put their arms around me and tell me it would be OK. I needed my husband’s never-ending positivity and encouragement. I needed my Mom to comfort me like only she could, and I needed my Dad’s strength to see me through it. That’s what families do… they see you through it. They support you.

The Importance of Support Systems

That’s a big word, “support.” When you’re vulnerable it’s the support that lifts you out of the darkness and allows hope to shine through. When you share your burden, if even just a little, the weight gradually lifts from your shoulders. It did mine! I enveloped myself with their love and encouragement and gradually came to believe I really could do this. And I did.

That was twenty years ago. It wasn’t easy! I think it was a full-time job to boost my spirits sometimes, but they did it. Over and over they came through for me because I allowed them to. That’s the deal…. you can’t be a silent sufferer! Let others into your world and lean on them. They want to help; they want to make it better for you. They want to support you.

Accept Help from Friends

A cancer diagnosis affects the whole family. While it’s easier to let spouses, parents, or children help, it can be a little tougher with friends. I hated to be the “sick one.” I just wanted to be normal when I was around my friends. No pity for me!

Now after being on the other side for so many years, I want nothing more than to help my friends going through a tough time. Doctor appointments, errands, meals, or just having a shoulder to lean on… I’m there. Willingly. I get it now. Let your friends help if you can. Take them up on their offers. Think of how good you’d feel if you could help a close friend out when they needed it. I wish I would have been a little more receptive of help. I was exhausted during chemo and having an occasional meal brought by friends would have been great (and a break for my family).

Join a Support Group

If possible, seek out a support group. I was fortunate to be asked to participate in an online computer support system. It made a huge difference in my life. My friends and family were great. But none of them truly knew what I was going through. The women I met in my breast cancer group were awesome.

They’re the ones who told me to shave my head at the first sign of my hair falling out, then suggested I have a good cry and go do something fun. Great advice!

They’re the ones who told me to make a head covering out of swimsuit material so I could still swim in the summer and not burn my bald head. Again, great advice! I could go on and on.

These women knew because they’d been there, done that. This was the advice I could not get from anyone other than those that had paved the way ahead of me. I am and will be forever grateful to these warriors. After twenty years, we are still in constant contact and I consider them my dearest friends!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Asking for help can be a challenge. Make a list of the tasks you’re struggling with the most. For me it was the constant battle of keeping my spirits up. My family and friends knew this and were always thinking of ways to make me smile. If you can’t bring yourself to ask for help, confide in your closest friend or family member. Let them spread the word for you. And don’t forget a good support group/system. Your doctor might be able to offer some good suggestions.

And above all, remember those dearest to you have your back. They are there with their arms stretched out… all you have to do is grab on!

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