I’ve been debating about writing this post for nearly nine months now. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad or guilty. But the truth is that although the vast majority of people have been wonderfully supportive to me in respect to my breast cancer, there are a couple of people in my life who have stunned me with the unexpected ways they’ve responded.

Rule #1 If a friend tells you that she has cancer, it is best to respond right away if only to say something along the lines of “I’m so sorry to hear that. You are in my thoughts/prayers.”

I know it doesn’t sound like much but it means a lot to be acknowledged. I know you can’t take my disease away.

Rule #2
If you neglected to respond right away, respond right now with a communication along the lines of “I’m so sorry you have cancer. I’m also sorry for my delay in talking to you about it. You are in my thoughts/prayers.” Making excuses at this point is risky. Some excuses are totally understandable like my friend who lives in another state and unbeknownst to me, was sick for a few months and had to temporarily close down her business. That is a very very good excuse and by the way, friend who knows who she is, I am so sorry that you were sick but it was so great to talk to you recently. I am so glad that you are so far on the road to recovery. Other excuses like, “I’m sorry, I was too busy” is not an excuse that makes me feel better. It makes me feel worse, to tell you the truth. Maybe you did mean to respond sooner but thought you should do something fancier than the statement from rule #1. And then time got away from you.

Or perhaps the idea of cancer freaks you out because it is a very serious disease, that can happen to anyone, and can kill people. I understand your fear but it is not a good excuse. We live in a world of uncertainty. None of us know exactly when we will die. A compassionate statement goes a long way, even if it is short. Being seriously ill has some extremely isolating moments and for many people, the isolation is chronic.

Rule #3
Please do not skip over the fact that I am dealing with a scary and serious illness and act as if nothing is wrong. I am still your friend and I offer you whatever friendship and support that I can. I know you have your own troubles. It helps me to know that there are things I can still offer my friends. But please don’t skip over my cancer and then ask me for help with something in your life.

Rule #4
If you think you messed up with a friend in need, please don’t spend your time guilting yourself out about it. Simply apologize and again, be careful with the excuses. I recently received apologies from some good friends. It meant a great deal to me. They didn’t make excuses even though in reality, they have some pretty good ones.

Rule #5
If you at a loss of what to do and your friend keeps a blog, you can help by reading the blog. I love for people to read my blog and press “like” from time to time. (Oops, you have to have a WordPress account to “like” a post. I had forgotten that when I originally wrote this.) Then I know they are thinking about me. A supportive comment is a cherry on top of the sundae. (No WordPress account is necessary for posting a comment.)

Rule #6
If you are at a loss of what to do, live close to your friend, and like to cook, bringing food is a lovely concrete nurturing act.

Rule #7
Convalescing gets really boring, especially for an extrovert such as myself. Visitors, emails, texts, and phone calls can be really nice. If the time is not good, I will tell you.

There are so many things that we can do for our “friends in need.” Even the tiniest acknowledgement helps. The time to do it is now.