Portrait of Yogini, stuntwoman, scuba diver and cancer survivor Szilvia Gogh.

Photo of Szilvia Gogh by David Young-Wolff.


In my own cancer journey, I found that the support from family and friends was invaluable. We all want to be that supportive person, yet there are times when we may not know what to do or say. Here are some suggestions informed by my own experience that I would like to share. If you have friends, family members, co-workers, or community members with cancer, one of these tips to support people with cancer might just make their day.

1. Offer specific things you can help with, such as taking the dog for a walk, picking up kids from school, or dropping off groceries. Saying, “Call me if you need anything,” doesn’t give your friend enough direction as to how you can help. Someone with cancer may be feeling overwhelmed and may not know how to say what they need.

2. Along those lines, remind her to BREATHE. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to think straight. Millions of thoughts zigzagged through my mind.

3. Encourage him to seek out a second opinion and maybe even a third! Sometimes they might not agree, but opinions offer choices.

4. Show up for a visit in person. Don’t just call. It means a lot.

5. Go for a walk together – short or long, depending how he feels. Fresh air does great things to the body and mind.

6. Bring over your friend’s favorite foods to provide comfort and to tempt the palate. Eating is hard after chemotherapy.

7. Deliver soups. One of the side effects of most pain medications and chemotherapy drugs is constipation. Lack of exercise makes it even worse. Soup is a remedy to help get things moving and encourage proper hydration.

8. Tell her about the Look Good, Feel Better program: lookgoodfeelbetter.org. It is a free beauty workshop for cancer patients. This program taught me how to make eyebrows when mine fell out during chemo, among other things. As part of the event, people received a personalized bag with the make-up that we would need, all donated by cosmetic companies.

9. Offer to drive to a doctor’s visit, test, or chemotherapy treatment. Some facilities even allow friends to stay and hang out during treatment. Bring books, jokes, music, headphones, eye pillows, warm socks, or other comfort items your friend may have forgotten to pack.

10. Be there even months after the treatment. Everybody comes out of the woodwork when their friend becomes sick and reaches out. However, cancer treatment is a long journey and individuals and families need support months later as well.