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Extension Notes: Ways to help your friends who are dealing with cancer

By: Whitney Morrow
Carter County Extension Agent

While cancer death rates have declined due to cancer prevention, advances in early detection and treatment, and increased education about the dangers of smoking, the American Cancer Society still projects almost two million new cancer cases and 609,360 cancer deaths in the United States in 2022. The National Cancer Institute reports that a new cancer diagnosis is made every 30 seconds.  

A cancer diagnosis can be life-altering for those diagnosed as well as for their friends and family. Family and friends may want to be supportive, but they do not always know what to say or do. Fortunately, you can adjust to a cancer diagnosis and situation in many ways.    

It is important to learn as much as you can about a diagnosis and treatment to give you an idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that talking about cancer can be emotional and overwhelming, especially for someone recently diagnosed. Let your friend or family member tell you what they want you to know and don’t push them for additional information. With permission, you may learn about a diagnosis from other family members and friends. Health professionals can recommend resources for learning more and for seeking support.  

Before visiting a loved one, call ahead and ask permission. A recent treatment or even a bad day may deter someone from wanting visitors. Do not take offense if they want to be alone and offer to make plans for a future visit when they feel better. You might also suggest a regular phone schedule.  

Cancer and everything that comes with it can be overwhelming, and it can be hard for your friend/family member to pinpoint ways you can help. Instead of asking what you can do, offer to help with specific tasks, such as babysitting, caring for a pet, grocery shopping, doing laundry or preparing a meal. Realize that they may decline your offer, and if they do, do not take it personal.  

Treat your friend/family member as normal as possible. Offer to do things that you normally would do together, such as going for walks, watching movies, talking and laughing. Discuss things that are important in your friendship, from current events to mutual hobbies and interests. If you are both interested and able, work on a project together. Also let them know you are there if they ever need to talk, cry or just sit in silence.  

Avoid giving medical advice. While someone else you know may have had the same diagnosis, each individual condition and treatment may vary. As a result, treatment decisions should be made with the guidance of health care teams.  

Additional information about family life topics is available at the Carter County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.  

Upcoming Events

  • Extension Homemakers Membership Drive- If you are interesting in joining Carter County Homemakers contact the Extension Office.  Dues are just $8.00 a year!
  • Hike and Learn- October 21st 1pm at Laurel Gorge
  • Make and Take Charcuterie Board Class- October 24th 5pm. Must Call 474-6686 to register
  • Laugh and Learn Playdate- October 26th 10am-Noon.  Kids 5 and under with an adult
  • Embracing Aging, Eating Healthy Foods- October 27th 1pm Friendship House
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