Don’t Be Afraid – Just Ask


By Lindsay, who was 17 years old when her friend was diagnosed with cancer

It’s really hard when your friend has cancer – for her and you. At this age, friends are some of the most important people in your life, and what you do or don’t do for your friend matters a lot. So many questions repeat themselves in your head. Questions like:

“What should I say to my best friend who is different from the rest of us – in a way?”

As friends we think to ourselves,

“What do I say? Am I going to say the wrong thing? When is a good time to ask?”
“Do I tell her what a great time we had last night, out with all our friends while she was laying in her bed?”

“Do I tell her how I’m doing in school and how much fun I’m having there?”

All of her friends, including me, were faced with these types of questions.

I remember a time when Melissa and I had spent the day together. I dropped her off at her house and pulled into the driveway to say goodbye. I always took goodbyes seriously because I did not want to regret it if something happened. So, as we were sitting there chatting, I raked up the courage to ask what was going on with her treatment and what her chances were of getting better again. I don’t remember exactly what was said or how the conversation went, but I do remember her looking down at her lap and starting to cry. I had seen Melissa cry before but it was never like this. I just saw despair in her eyes and then I began to cry, too.

She said that she just wanted people to ask her what was going on and actually talk with her about it.

Melissa wanted to be treated like a normal person but also wanted one simple thing that we sometimes neglected to give her – a chance to talk. Sure, everyone listened if she brought it up, but not a lot of people wanted to ask her. I think that sometimes other people and myself, at times, avoided those questions for fear she didn’t want to talk about that kind of thing.

We were wrong.

It is hard to be a friend at a time like this because, unlike family, friends have special bonds. Girlfriends share secrets about boys and private life in general and sometimes family members don’t have that sort of tie. That’s why it is difficult to handle a situation like this.

I would give other friends this advice:
She is your best friend – treat her like that.

Share everything you used to share. Tell her you’re doing well in school, talk to her about old times, and bring out old pictures and laugh. Most of all…. ask her about what is going on and how she feels about being sick. Don’t be afraid to inquire why she is losing her hair and why she is so weak.

ASK, ASK, AND ASK.

The rest of it is just using your best judgment as a friend. Don’t treat her differently, which is the hardest thing to do, but try your best to be comforting and devoted.

Just ask.

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©2009 Teens Living with Cancer. All Rights Reserved.