7 ways to care for a sick friend


Here's what I wrote for Buzzfeed a few months ago, and I decided to post it to share my hard-wrought wisdom (if that's what you want to call it) with you all.

The more educated we all are when it comes to approaching chronic illness, the better we are for it. I hope this blesses you! Here goes:

7 ways to care for a sick friend

The thing is, getting a diagnosis is similar to grief. How one person reacts is probably going to be different how someone else reacts to the exact same diagnosis. Through not one but two scary diagnoses, here's what I've seen work best in the medical community:

1. DO acknowledge it. If it's going to be the elephant in the room, you might as well talk about it anyways. It's probably one of the biggest things we're thinking about anyways, so it means a lot when you take an interest. 

2. Along those lines, DO ask questions. No question about a diagnosis is going to break us, because we've thought about every scenario and probably asked the same questions to a medical team. It's not an untouchable issue. I promise.

3. DO offer help. And by help, most of us are really stubborn when it comes to letting you know if we need help. If you say something like "I'm here if you need anything," we're not going to ask for help. We're just not.  Offer tangible ways to care for someone, i.e. "Can I bring you dinner tonight?" "Can I drive you to/from treatment?" "Do you want someone to come watch Netflix with you?"

4. DON'T try to offer unsolicited advice, especially when it comes to treatment plans. This includes: "well, have you tried..." "you just need to..." "I have a friend that did XYZ and now he/she is back to normal life!"

5. DON'T say things like "But I thought you were getting better...?" or "But you don't look sick?" or "You look great, you must be feeling better!" When living with a serious illness, you learn to try to live as normally as possible. Just because I put on makeup and curled my hair does not mean I am better. :)

6. DO show up. The biggest thing you need to do is just be present -- you don't need to worry about saying the right or wrong things. I have the sweetest memories of friends that would come over and just watch TV with me after treatment, and it meant the world. It may seem insignificant to you, but it'll mean the world to the person that's sick. Trust me on this one.

7. Finally, it's okay to ask how they want to approach this situation! Ask specific questions like: "Is this something you want to talk about today?" "How can I best encourage you through this?" "How are you doing...really?"

Remember that no good deed, no matter how small, goes unnoticed. My friends that sent me packages, brought over Chipotle, sent me encouraging text messages, and just would sit and cry with me meant the world. You don't have to be perfect -- just be present.