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18 Things You Can Do When A Person You Love Is Facing A Scary Diagnosis

"You don't have to be perfect — just be present."

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We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to give us advice for when someone you love is or might be sick. Here are some of the heartfelt responses.

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1. It's really important to only promise things you're sure can come true.

I'm all for being hopeful and reassuring, but I also think it's really important to only promise things you're sure can come true. Everyone says, "You'll get through this" or, "It's just a bump in the road," but the truth is, a lot of times we don't know that.

Submitted by Megan Altschuler (Facebook)

2. Because I knew I wasn't alone in being scared, and that being scared wasn't silly or irrational.

When someone is scared, allow them to be scared. In the days leading up to my tests, everyone kept telling me to not worry: "I'm sure everything will be fine." It made me so mad. I was absolutely terrified, and everyone telling me not to worry completely made light of the fact that I could be looking at cancer.

Then after two sleepless nights, I talked to my best friend, and he started crying. He was scared, just as scared as I was, asking me a hundred questions, and it actually made me feel better. Because I knew I wasn't alone in being scared, and that being scared wasn't silly or irrational.

Submitted by susanrebeccah

3. When I was in the hospital after my last surgery, one of my best friends sent me a really silly joke every hour on the hour until I was discharged.

It was just enough to make me smile when I needed it most, but not so much that I felt pitied or bad in any way. I really appreciated that.

Submitted by sanchiar

4. Because when everything is hanging in the balance, a bit of normality is a beautiful thing.

What a lot of people don't understand is in bad circumstances, you don't always have to shove everything full of optimism. I don't want a motivational poster of a cat hanging on a clothesline; I just want you to laugh when I joke about how ridiculous I would look with a bald head.

If you know someone who is suffering, just be there for them, love on them — and most importantly, make them laugh. Because when everything is hanging in the balance, a bit of normality is a beautiful thing.

Submitted by Hannah Martin (Facebook)

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5. Don't offer advice unless they ask for it, especially about their treatment plan.

I am constantly bombarded by terrible medical advice from hairdressers, co-workers, family friends — even the checkout people at the grocery. It's exhausting and frustrating, so don't suggest unless they ask.

Submitted by Emily Cox (Facebook)

6. Don't fall off the face of the Earth.

I had a friend do that and during the most difficult year of my life, I had to deal with a lost friend. Don't be that friend.

Submitted by Meredith Lynch Vartuli (Facebook)

7. Show up. Bring pizza.

Sit down. Shut up. Listen.

Submitted by Sunshine Then (Facebook)

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8. I had every emotion in the book, and he not only let me feel how I needed to without judgment, but always reminded me that I had a right to feel however I wanted.

I met my current boyfriend the day I was diagnosed with cervical cancer two years ago (a weird but beautiful coincidence). I kept minimizing it because I didn't want to come off as weak, but he was always there to remind that what I was going through was a big deal, that I was allowed to be scared or angry or whatever I needed to be.

That's the best advice I can give: Just support the emotions the person is having. I had every emotion in the book, and he not only let me feel how I needed to without judgment, but always reminded me that I had a right to feel however I wanted. Two years later I am cancer-free and we are planning a life together.

Submitted by Isabelle Crew (Facebook)

9. The most important things others did for me was try to understand.

They researched my illness to be well-informed, and that made me feel less alone.

Submitted by callmecaity91

10. Just do it.

Never, ever say, "Let me know if you need anything." I've found that this statement is an empty sentiment. Just do it.

Submitted by missmissc

11. The big things are great, but the smaller things you do are greater.

This is a time where massaging what hurts means more than a hug or a kiss. A warm blanket before bed is worth more than a Porsche. A funny story about your co-worker is what they would rather hear than "feel better." Seeing you there in the middle of the night when they have been vomiting with a wet cloth and a cup of mouthwash is a more beautiful sight than the two of you on the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Submitted by thekatieahern

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12. If you want to be helpful, ask them if there are appointments you could help them arrange.

The medical system is a bureaucratic nightmare, and sometimes locking down an appointment can take months, often making patients feel frustrated and hopeless.

Submitted by sineadt

13. As prevalent as a disease may be, it is a very personal, life-altering experience that needs to be treated as such.

The worst thing that people did was try to minimize the disease by saying, "Oh, well my [insert family member] has it!" or "Diabetes is everywhere!" To me, it was like telling someone mid-divorce that it was no big deal because divorce happens a lot — as prevalent as a disease may be, it is a very personal, life-altering experience that needs to be treated as such.

Submitted by Heather Noelle Williams (Facebook)

14. The best thing you can do from a nursing perspective is to keep everyone informed and up to speed.

It reduces anxiety by miles.

Most importantly, ask what you can do to best serve them. Perhaps the person prefers to turn to their faith for guidance and being able to provide someone of their faith may be so helpful. Sometimes a hug goes a long way. Sometimes stepping aside and giving space is the best solution.

Ask the person how you can be there for them during this difficult time. There's really no wrong answer to this question, yet no suggestion ever feels right.

Submitted by cjcal

15. When she told me her diagnosis, I promised I would treat her the same way I always have.

My best friend — we met on the second day of kindergarten — has MS. When she told me her diagnosis, I promised I would treat her the same way I always have. We have always joked with each other, and we still do. I don't pull punches with her or treat her like she's going to break.

Last year, I gave her a plush ganglion for Christmas with a note saying she could use the brain cells. She loved it.

Right now, I'm working on a book of childhood memories that we shared since she's losing those. Hopefully she'll be able to remember things when they are in black and white.

Submitted by Megan Funk (Facebook)

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16. When someone is in pain or is undergoing heavy treatment and facing death, they need someone to hold their hand.

It is so simple yet so beautifully significant.

Submitted by lassieface808

17. My lesson I took away from that is sometimes all you can do is just be there, and that's saving someone's life.

My friend came over and cleaned my entire apartment (which I hadn't lifted a finger to clean for weeks), and ordered pizza. She just sat with me, and stayed with me for hours while I rested, and she read a book. I was so moved by that, and things started to look up. My lesson I took away from that is sometimes all you can do is just be there, and that's saving someone's life.

Submitted by Caroline Nissen (Facebook)

18. You don't have to be perfect — just be present.

Remember that no good deed, no matter how small, goes unnoticed. My friends who 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.

Submitted by eliseg11

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