You can make a big difference to someone you know

Bowel Cancer Australia

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Many bowel cancer patients have shared stories of tremendous support from family and friends when they first received their bowel cancer diagnosis or while they were in hospital.

However, it is often after a person has left hospital and is receiving treatment in the out-patient setting that they need the most help, support, and encouragement.

Studies show people with cancer have a more positive outlook and often report a better quality of life if they receive emotional support while adjusting to their new ‘normal’.

“You can make a big difference for someone you know with bowel cancer,” says Bowel Care Nurse Fiona Radford.

The best way to be a friend is to tailor your help to what they need and enjoy the most.

Look for small, practical things your friend may need or just enjoy. Think about what their average day is like and what might make it a little better.

It’s always good to laugh and smile, too, so look for fun things for your friend.

As you spend time with your friend and learn more about how bowel cancer is affecting their everyday life, look out for ways you can offer to help.

Take note of how your friend is coping and keep in mind that the situation may change as treatment goes on.

Once a person is no longer in hospital, the hustle and bustle of constant appointments and interruptions can quickly turn to isolation and loneliness.

Make sure you stay in touch with your friend regularly and remind them of how important they are to you.

Send brief, frequent notes or texts and include photos, cards, and funny things that can provide a laugh or a smile or make short regular calls.

Call at times that work best for your friend or set times for them to call you.

Return messages as soon as possible and end your calls or notes with, “I’ll be in touch soon,” and be sure you are.

Schedule visits at a time that suits your friend and if applicable provide physical and emotional support for your friend’s carer too.

You might be able to arrange to stay with your friend while the carer gets out of the house for a few hours. (This can be a great relief for your friend and the carer.)

Make your visits short and routine, rather than long and infrequent and offer to bring a snack or treat to share so your visit doesn’t impose on the carer.

Ask questions and be available to listen if they need to talk. Try to hear and to understand how your friend is feeling and let them know you’re open to talking whenever they feel like it.

Many people worry they won’t know what to say to someone with bowel cancer. Try to remember that the most important thing is not what you say, but that you are there and that you are willing to listen.

Understand that if your friend doesn’t want to talk it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be alone. If your friend doesn’t wish to talk, let them know that’s okay too.

Rather than scheduling visits on weekends and holidays, when your friend is likely to have others visit as well, plan to drop in during the times when your friend is likely to be alone and lonely.

Begin and end your visits with a handshake, a hug or a touch if appropriate

Some people find it difficult to accept support, even if they need it, so don’t take it personally if your friend refuses your help.

Look for ways you can assist on a regular basis. Ask the carer for a list of tasks that need doing and organise friends, neighbours, and co-workers to help complete the tasks on a regular basis. There are special websites that can help with this.

Here are just a few ideas of things your friend might need help with:

  • Buying groceries
  • Going to the Post Office
  • Picking up prescriptions
  • Helping make to-do lists
  • Babysitting
  • Providing transport for your friend’s child to weekly sports practice or music lessons
  • Pet-sitting or dog walking
  • Caring for your friend’s plants
  • Writing thank you notes or sending emails on behalf of your friend
  • Driving family or friends to and from the airport or hotel
  • Providing emotional support through your presence and your touch

Everyone, no matter how strong, can benefit from having a friend. Your friend with bowel cancer needs you and your support. No one should go through bowel cancer alone.

To speak with a Bowel Care Nurse about other ways you can support your friend, get in touch online or call our Helpline 1800 555 494 during business hours.


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