How to Help a Sick Friend

A guide for being there when it matters most

What can I do to help?" is probably the most common thing we say to a friend who is ill or in need. But despite our best intentions, this may not be the best way to lend a helping hand. When a person is diagnosed with an MPN blood cancer, patients often feel too overwhelmed or too proud to know how to respond. Now, here's some ways for you to support a sick friend.

  1. Don't ask, just do. Offer something specific (big or small) that you can do to help out and suggest a time when you can follow through, such as "How about I come over on Friday at six and make you dinner?" This may help ease any embarrassment or guilt your friend may feel about asking for help.
  2. Be honest. It can be difficult to find the right words—or any words at all—when a friend is in crisis. Sometimes, simply saying "I don't know what to say" is the best way to start a conversation.
  3. Add a personal touch. While an iTunes gift card or a good book is a great gift, personalized presents can be the most meaningful. A baked batch of favorite cookies could be a great comfort. For someone living abroad, make me a short video to tell them that you are thinking of them. You can send dozens of hand-folded origami cranes for good luck.
  4. Listen. When news of a cancer diagnosis spreads, patients can be inundated by opinions, advice, and information on everything from nutrition to spiritual outlook. Help out a friend by being a sounding board rather than an information dispenser.

Author: Crowley, William

Bill Crowley has worked with blood cancer patients, family and friends for over 15 years. As the Director of Development, he helps supporters appreciate how their gifts impact MPN research.

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