September 10, 2001
Five Advanced Tips for Helping Friends with Cancer
William M. Buchholz, MD and Susan W. Buchholz, PhD
Your friend has cancer and you want to help. The greatest present you can bring them is your presence. How you prepare yourself is more important than what you say or do. Words and actions that arise from a loving and healing spirit almost always hit the mark. The following tips come from Drs. Bill and Susie Buchholz, an oncologist-psychologist team with over twenty-three years experience working with patients and their caregivers.
1 Be transparent.
Being transparent means allowing the possible good to come through you rather than from you. Prepare yourself for meeting your friend by cleansing yourself of your own agenda. Coming empty-handed means you can provide what is necessary at that moment rather than what you anticipated before. Let the moment guide what you can do. Be present, be real.
2 Just listen.
Hear your friend without judgment: you can relieve many burdens they have carried because there was no place to lay them. If they are confused, help them find out what they want or need, not what you think they should have. It's ok to share your own feelings and attitudes if it's appropriate; it allows your friend to be important to you, too.
3 Be vulnerable.
If you are to become close, you have to be close to their pain. It will awaken your own pain. Beneath the anxiety, depression and suffering that sometimes accompanies cancer is the shared experience of being human and mortal. From that shared pain comes an intimate bond that can affirm both the preciousness of life and its fragility.
4 Discover beauty.
Encourage encounters with beauty and nature. Take your friend to a garden, the seashore, an art museum or concert. Bring them flowers, a shell from beach, pictures of waterfalls, a pretty rock from your hike or a CD of their favorite artist. Share what is beautiful in your life and theirs.
5 Honor your generosity.
Both you and your friend can be healed, each in your own way. Helping another soul enriches your life. It isn't selfish but an integral part of the process. Be grateful.