How to Support a Friend with Cancer

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Episode Description

When someone in our life has cancer, it's difficult to know what to say or how to help. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Host Tim Unsinn talks to April Morris about how you can best support a friend or loved one who has cancer. Morris, an outpatient therapist at Dakota Family Services, shares tips for knowing what/what not to say, and actions that speak louder than words.

What to Expect

  • Learn what to say/not say to a friend or loved on with cancer.
  • Understand that a friend’s cancer diagnosis is not about you.
  • Think about things you can do to help.


Resources: Learn More

Things to Think About

  • What can you say to support your friend during treatment?
  • What can you do to support your friend during treatment?
  • How can you help your friend keep some normalcy in their life?

About the Guest

April Morris 2020 1 April provides outpatient therapy for adolescents and adults age 16 and over. She uses a multi-faceted trauma-informed therapy approach including a variety of therapy techniques.

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Transcript
How to Support a Friend with Cancer

Featuring April Morris, LMSW, Therapist, Dakota Family Services

Host Tim Unsinn:
Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and wellbeing, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to mind your mind. Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is April Morris. April is an outpatient therapist in Fargo and provides therapy for those over 16, primarily adults. April, it is great to have you on Mind Your Mind.

April Morris:
Thank you for having me.

Host Tim Unsinn:
Our topic is how to support someone diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers. However, before we get to the topic, there's a question I ask all guests on Mind your Mind. Why do you do what you do?

April Morris:
I think it's always hard to answer this question because there's a lot of reasons why I do what I do, but I do love to teach. I like to teach new skills and help people figure out how to overcome obstacles. And I'm always learning. I'm learning things from other people and it's really humbling and rewarding to be part of somebody else's story or their journey.

Host Tim Unsinn:
All right. Today's topic one that's near and dear to many people, I'm sure, because I don't know anyone that is not touched in some way by cancer. So talking about how to support someone diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers, what do we say and not say to a person with cancer?

April Morris:
Sure. And I think this is a good topic because I think we all have good intentions, right. But we just don't always know what to say. I think first you make sure that you take a step back before you talk to your friend and make sure that you're really processing your thoughts and feelings about it. Um, maybe look up a little information because then when you do talk to this person, um, you know, you want to make sure the focus is on them and not answering your questions or making you feel right, more comfortable. So some of the things to say would just be, you know, I'm thinking about you, I care about you. I'm sorry this has happened to you. I think what's hard, you know, I don't want to say it's something not to say, but I think it's hard, a lot of people just say, "let me know if I can do anything for you." And it's just really open-ended. So I think anytime we can just be really intentional with our words, just letting them know that we care, letting them know that we're available if they want to talk, and trying to help them keep some normalcy, right, in their life. If they have a lot of chaos going on, but you guys have always had coffee every Sunday, still offer to have coffee every Sunday. And that's going to be really important to them. Things maybe not to say, specifically, I think the biggest ones that I've heard from people that I've worked with is being overly positive. "I'm sure it'll be okay." "I'm sure you'll be fine." When they're waiting for maybe test results or finalizing their treatment plans, you know, you can still be positive and supportive, but just maybe not so far to the other side, right. You know, "I'm hoping for the best." "I'll be thinking of you." And this goes back to the things to say, not comparing their experience to somebody else's. My great-grandma had this type of cancer and this is what happened. Good or bad. Right? Good or bad stories. They just, it's not helpful to have a comparable experience. Cause unfortunately, nobody's cancer experience is the same. So I think those are the two biggest ones. I have also heard just comments about if they look different, commenting on, if they look different, just like when someone says, "Oh, you look tired," right? We know that maybe we don't look very well. Having somebody point it out isn't going to make us feel any more comfortable, in general. Or trying to compare feelings, "I know how you feel." Even something as simple as "You're so brave," or "You're so strong." That can actually have an adverse effect in that people then feel like they can't ask for help or they can't tell people that they're struggling, that they really have to put on this show. And so again, really just less is more and being just available and being there is super important. And actually actions speak a lot louder than words.

Host Tim Unsinn:
Yeah. I get the action piece because that's something we can, I think you mentioned routine; stick to the routine until you're told you can't stick to the routine. Treat them normally, treat them like you would every day because they are the same person, just going through a tough situation, but you need to be there for them and actions. It's a note, it's a treat; it's something, but yeah, actions, great, great point. Our guest on Mind Your Mind is April Morris and we are talking about how to support someone diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers. So what are some common misconceptions when a person has finished their treatment?

April Morris:
So this is something that I often would see people in ongoing sessions about or in support groups, is they're still trying to adjust to, you know, what oncology calls a new normal. They're trying to just adjust to what is this like, because they may still have some physical side effects from their treatment. Um, they're always gonna have kind of some lingering fears and anxiety right, of recurrence. So for them, their life has ever-changed. It doesn't just go back to the way that it was. So for people sometimes might say, well, your treatment's done now, right? You're doing okay, right? For them, it's not ever going to be the way that it was. And I think it's just important to acknowledge that. Or if it's something that you're like, why are they still worried about this? Why are we still talking about this? You know, their treatment was five years ago and every year she celebrates her clear scan. She's probably going to do that for the rest of her life because this was life-changing for them. And I think it's easy to lose that perspective, the farther we get away from that person's treatment completion. So just remember that their journey doesn't end, just a part of it did.

Host Tim Unsinn:
Yeah. I can see that because, it may not be on your mind, but they're the one going through the cancer, even with the treatments being successful, it's always on the back of their mind. It's always something they're thinking about. Now some ways that we can show our care and support for that person.

April Morris:
Yeah. So when we were talking about actions, speak louder than words, this is, it can be a fine balance between trying to make sure you're not too pushy, but giving specific tasks, like, can I bring over a casserole? Can I make your family a lasagna? Instead of just saying, again, do you need anything? Can we be a little more specific or intentional with our offers? So it might be, you know, offer to run an errand, clean up the house, drive them to a doctor's appointment, go with to a doctor's appointment, take notes if another family member can't be there. It's definitely overwhelming to keep track of it all. And I think any of those things. Obviously care packages. Um, if you feel inclined to do more of a gift, um, things that are practical, like gift cards for gas, if they have to travel to their treatment, grocery cards, take out food, right? Things that are going to be really helpful if there's going to be a financial burden to their experience to consider.

Host Tim Unsinn:
Those are some amazing tips to help us, those of us that have friends or family going through the cancer battle. And again, it has touched and reached everybody. It's not just, I mean, I don't know anybody that's not been touched in some way by cancer. April, thank you. Those were some great tips on helping us show our love and care for those around us while being normal and staying in the routine and not treating them any differently. So that's very helpful information. Thank you. As we wrap up, I do have that one last question for you and you know the question, well, what do you do to personally mind your mind?

April Morris:
I try to make sure that my self-care includes a little bit of alone time at night. Um, but also during the day, spending time with my family and we love going to the lakes, having a lake place and just being really active outdoors.

Host Tim Unsinn:
Thank you. April, April Morris, our guest on Mind Your Mind. April's an outpatient therapist in Fargo, providing therapy for those over 16, primarily adults. Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information links, to additional resources, contact information, and much more go to dakotafamilyservices.org.

 

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