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Being yourself supports ill friend

Dear Annie: I am 28 years old, and one of my friends recently was diagnosed with cancer.

How can I best provide support for cancer victims in an appropriate manner? I’ve tried to treat my friend the same as always, but I’m not sure that’s always the right response.

I know cancer victims often need help around the house or with errands, so I’ve made myself available to get groceries, but I’m not sure if it’s enough or too much. How do I know if he wants to discuss the cancer and is waiting for me to say something? Do you have any resources you could offer to help friends of those with cancer in navigating this disease? – Clueless on Cancer Etiquette

Dear Clueless: You sound like a wonderful, compassionate friend. The American Cancer Society ( offers a helpful list that includes:

Take your cues from the person with cancer. Some people are very private, while others will openly talk about their illness. Don’t feel that cancer is the only topic of conversation you can have. Keep your relationship as normal and balanced as possible. Include your friend in usual projects or social events. Let him be the one to tell you if the commitment is too much to manage. Expect your friend to have good days and bad, emotionally and physically.

Greater patience and compassion are called for during times like these. Offer to help in concrete, specific ways.

Here are some additional suggestions: Send cards and emails to let him know you are thinking of him, but make sure he knows you don’t expect a reply. Phone calls are OK, but a ringing phone can also wake him. If he has a partner, lend your support and attention to that person, as well. Offer to inform friends and relatives of the news.

Try to simply be yourself when you talk to your friend. What matters is that you show you care by being available, offering support and listening.