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Your Friend with Cancer: Spending Time Together

December 02, 2021

How can close friends and family safely spend time together during the holidays? If your friend has cancer or is immunocompromised, you might wonder how to enjoy each other’s company while respecting your friend’s health and energy levels, as well as social distancing or public health guidelines.

In the second of four articles dedicated to supporting your friend with cancer, Jeana Faske, BSN, RN, OCN, nurse educator and infection control specialist, offers guidance on spending meaningful time together with a friend who has cancer.

What are the best ways to safely spend time with friends or family members who have cancer this holiday season?

Holiday traditions are important for families and children, and there are several ways to enjoy the holidays and protect everyone’s health. The best way to minimize COVID-19 risk is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible. Other safety measures include wearing well-fitted masks over your nose and mouth, and if meeting indoors, keeping the number of attendees to a minimum for the space you have. Outdoors is safer than indoors if that is an option and the weather is nice.

What will mean the most to them is simply being the friend you have always been, giving them time to have meaningful conversations with you, and enjoying quality time together.

Is there anything that I shouldn’t do or that I should avoid when seeing my friend in-person or virtually?

It’s important to remember that there are not set rules and every friendship is different. Think about your dynamic together and let that guide you as you support your friend.

Often, little things mean the most. Keep in mind:

  • Don’t be afraid to make future plans as this gives your friend something to look forward to.
  • Remember to be flexible with your plans in case your friend needs to cancel or reschedule if they don’t feel well.
  • Most importantly, don’t let your friend’s condition get in the way of your friendship – treat them the same way you always have.

What can I do to make our time together more meaningful?

Talk about anything other than your friend’s cancer, unless they bring it up. Since the day they were diagnosed, most of their conversations have likely focused on cancer, so being able to talk about other things will be a welcome reprieve. What will mean the most to them is simply being the friend you have always been, giving them time to have meaningful conversations with you, and enjoying quality time together.

What’s the most special way you have seen someone spend time with a friend or family member with cancer?

Spend time with them doing all the things you did prior to their diagnosis. This may have to be modified based on how they are feeling, but they will enjoy the normalcy of it. Remember to plan extra time for rest periods, especially if they are currently undergoing treatment.

You don’t have to plan an elaborate outing – just being with your friend, laughing, and enjoying activities you’ve always done will give them that time to have fun and forget about their cancer for just a little bit.


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