Embracing Different Communication Styles Within Cancer Support Networks

The value of strong, empathetic communication cannot be overstated. At b-present, we recognize the pivotal role that effective communication plays not only in everyday interactions but especially within communities supporting young adults facing cancer. In this blog, we’ll discuss understanding diverse communication styles and adapting these insights to strengthen the connections within cancer support networks, ensuring a more nurturing and supportive environment for everyone involved.


Understanding Communication Styles

Communication is the foundation of human connection, shaping our relationships and interactions. There are four primary communication styles:

Assertive: Marked by clarity, respect, and confidence, this style is both direct and considerate of others’ needs.

Aggressive: Often overpowering and disrespectful, this style can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings.

Passive: Characterized by difficulty in expressing needs or opinions, leading to resentment and stress.

Passive-Aggressive: This style veils dissatisfaction through indirect expression, leading to confusion and unresolved issues.

Recognizing and understanding these styles can lead to healthier, more effective interactions, particularly within the sensitive context of a cancer support network.

Each style comes with its attributes and challenges. Here’s how to navigate interactions with each:

  • With Assertive Communicators: Be direct and respect their views while sharing your own. Engage in balanced discussions.
  • With Aggressive Communicators: Maintain calm, set clear boundaries, and avoid confrontations or power struggles.
  • With Passive Communicators: Encourage expression and create a safe space for sharing, ensuring not to exploit their passivity.
  • With Passive-Aggressive Communicators: Address issues directly with clear, assertive communication, avoiding sarcasm, or passive-aggressive responses.

 

Practical Examples Across Communication Styles

1. Assertive Communication in Support Groups:

Example: During a support group session, an assertive communicator might say, “I feel overwhelmed with my current treatment plan and would appreciate discussing experiences with alternative therapies. Does anyone have insights they’re willing to share?”

This approach encourages open, respectful dialogue, making it easier for others to offer support and share their experiences without feeling pressured or judged.

2. Navigating Aggressive Communication in Family Conversations:

Example: In a scenario where a family member communicates aggressively about treatment options, saying, “You must do this; it’s the only right way,” the response could be, “I understand your concern and why you feel strongly about this option. Let’s explore all possibilities together calmly to make the best decision.”

This response aims to de-escalate tension while acknowledging the aggressive communicator’s concerns, promoting a more collaborative and less confrontational atmosphere.

3. Encouraging Passive Communicators to Share:

Example: Recognizing a passive communicator might struggle to express their needs, a facilitator in a support network might gently prompt, “We’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this topic, including any concerns or questions you might have. It’s a safe space here.”

Such encouragement helps passive communicators feel safe and valued, potentially reducing their stress and encouraging more open communication.

4. Addressing Passive-Aggressive Behavior in Peer Support:

Example: If a peer exhibits passive-aggressive behavior, like procrastinating on group tasks or using sarcastic remarks, addressing it directly yet empathetically could involve saying, “I’ve noticed some tension. Can we talk about what’s really bothering you? It’s important to us that everyone feels heard and supported.”

This approach aims to uncover the underlying issues respectfully and assertively, fostering a more honest and supportive communication environment.

 

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The Impact of Understanding and Adapting Communication Styles

By recognizing and adapting to these diverse communication styles, cancer support networks can become more effective in providing the empathy, respect, and support needed by young adults facing cancer. These practical examples highlight the importance of:

  • Empathy: Understanding the emotional state behind each communication style allows for more compassionate interactions.
  • Respect: Valuing each individual’s preferred style of communication fosters mutual respect and minimizes conflicts.
  • Support: Tailoring communication approaches to each style strengthens the overall support network, making it more inclusive and supportive.

 

Joining the Dialogue for Enhanced Support

Embracing the diversity of communication styles is a step toward building stronger, more empathetic support networks for young adults with cancer. As b-present continues to champion programs and initiatives aimed at enhancing these connections, we invite you to join us in this crucial dialogue. Together, we can create a community that thrives on understanding, compassion, and shared strength, transforming the quality of life and health outcomes for those facing cancer. 

Remember that every word, every interaction, and every shared moment in our support networks has the power to heal, uplift, and inspire. Let’s harness the power of effective communication to make every connection count.

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Creating Healthy Boundaries: A Guide for Young Adults with Cancer

Living with cancer as a young adult presents unique challenges, not only in terms of health but also in navigating the complexities of relationships and personal boundaries. At b-present, we understand the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries for emotional, physical, and psychological well-being. This guide offers practical advice, examples, and language suggestions to empower young adults with cancer in this critical aspect of their lives.


Understanding the Importance of Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries are the personal limits we set with other people, which indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behavior toward us. For young adults with cancer, setting boundaries is crucial for managing energy levels, emotional health, and the overall quality of life. It’s a way to communicate your needs, limits, and preferences clearly and respectfully, ensuring that your relationships support your well-being.

Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries

Identify Your Boundaries: Reflect on your needs regarding physical, emotional, mental, and social aspects. What makes you comfortable or uncomfortable? Your needs are valid, and recognizing them is the first step toward self-care.

Choose the Right Time and Place: Have these conversations when you and the person involved are calm, and choose a private setting for discussing sensitive matters.

Use Clear and Direct Language: Be specific about your needs. For example, say, “I need to rest by 9 PM, so I can’t have long phone calls in the evening.”

Express Your Feelings and Needs: Use “I” statements to convey your feelings without blaming others. For instance, “I feel overwhelmed with too many visitors and need more quiet time.”

Be Assertive but Respectful: Stand firm on your boundaries while maintaining respect for the other person’s feelings.

Listen and Engage: Be ready to listen to any concerns the other person might have and engage in a constructive dialogue.

Offer Alternatives: When possible, suggest other ways to meet in the middle, such as video calls instead of in-person visits.

Reaffirm Your Boundaries: Don’t hesitate to restate your boundaries if they are overlooked or misunderstood.

Prepare for Pushback: Some people might resist your boundaries. Stay calm and reiterate your needs respectfully.

Practice Self-Care: Recognize that setting boundaries is a form of self-respect. Seek support if you find it challenging to maintain these boundaries.

Examples of Healthy Boundaries

  • Physical Boundaries: “I need rest and might not engage in long outings. I appreciate your invitation, but I must prioritize my health.”
  • Emotional Boundaries: “I’m not comfortable discussing my medical details right now.”
  • Social Boundaries: “I need to limit my social activities for my well-being. Thank you for understanding.”
  • Informational Boundaries: “I prefer to share updates about my health on my terms. Please respect my privacy.”


Using the Ring Theory in Boundary Setting

The Ring Theory is a helpful model for understanding how to support and seek support effectively. Imagine concentric circles with the person with cancer at the center. Each ring represents different levels of closeness (family, close friends, acquaintances).

The rule? Comfort in, dump out. Offer support to those in inner circles and seek support from those in outer circles. When someone from an outer ring offers unsolicited advice or asks invasive questions, gently remind them of your boundaries.

Example: “I appreciate your concern, but I’m focusing on advice from my medical team and close family.”

This model can help manage interactions, especially when navigating unsolicited advice or questions.

Language for Enforcing Boundaries

A helpful structure is: “I value [this], so I need [that], and I will honor that by [action].”

  • Assertive Yet Kind: “I value your support, but I need to manage this in my own way.”
  • Setting Limits: “I’m not up for a visit today, but let’s text or have a call instead.”
  • Redirecting Conversations: “Let’s talk about something other than my illness. How about [another topic]?”
  • Requesting Privacy: “I’m keeping some aspects of my treatment private. Let’s respect that boundary.”

 

Tips for Maintaining Boundaries

  • Consistency is Key: Regularly reaffirm your boundaries.
  • Self-Care: Prioritize your needs without guilt.
  • Seek Support: Consider talking to a therapist or joining support groups.
  • Be Clear: Use straightforward language to express your boundaries.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Remember, prioritizing your well-being is necessary and valid.

Boundaries are essential for everyone but are particularly crucial for young adults navigating cancer. By setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, you can foster relationships that support your healing and well-being. Remember, it’s okay to prioritize your needs, and with practice, communicating your boundaries will become easier. b-present is here to support you every step of the way!

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Celebrating Your Cancerversary

Throughout a cancer experience, every milestone is a victory worth celebrating. For young adults navigating the twists and turns of diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship, the word “cancerversary” holds a special place in their hearts. We’re here to talk about cancerversaries and how you can celebrate them.


 

What is a Cancerversary?

A cancerversary, short for cancer anniversary, is a significant milestone for cancer survivors. A cancerversary isn’t just another day on the calendar—it’s your personal victory lap! The milestone is defined by YOU. Whether it’s the day you got the news, finished treatment, or hit a turning point, your cancerversary is all about celebrating YOU. It’s like your own special holiday, filled with triumph, resilience, and gratitude. Cancerversary means survivorship – living with, through, and beyond cancer. So why not shout it from the rooftops and embrace every moment?

I truly would rather celebrate this day than my actual birthday!” –  Meghan K.

 

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Why Celebrating Milestones is Important

In the whirlwind of facing cancer, every step forward is a victory worth celebrating. Cancerversaries are your chance to pause, reflect, and give yourself a high-five for making it this far. They’re reminders of your strength and the amazing support cheering you on. So go ahead, take a moment to bask in your awesomeness!

How to Celebrate YOUR Day

Your cancerversary, your rules! Here are some ideas to make your day as special as you are:

  • Spend time with your loved ones: Whether it’s a virtual hangout or an in-person party, surround yourself with the people who’ve been there for you every step of the way.
  • Pamper yourself: Whether it’s a spa day, your favorite meal, or a mini getaway, indulge in whatever brings you joy and makes you feel like your best self.
  • Create new traditions: Start something special that’s uniquely YOU. Plant a tree, release sky lanterns, or try something wild and adventurous.
  • Celebrate on social: Let the world know about your cancerversary! Share a post, a photo, or a heartfelt message on your favorite social media platform. Your story could inspire others and spread hope far and wide.

 

 

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  • Pay it forward: Spread the love by giving back. Volunteer, share your story, or join a support group. Your experience can inspire others and make the world a brighter place. Take survivor Julian Castaneda for example. He pays it forward with Bags of Love.

 

How Friends & Family Can Show Support

Celebrating your loved one’s cancerversary is all about showing love, admiration, and unwavering support. Here’s how you can make their day even more epic:

  • Send love notes: A heartfelt message, a silly card, or a simple text can make their day sparkle with joy and love.
  • Plan a celebration: Organize a party, a picnic in the park, or a virtual gathering to celebrate them. Always remember to check in with your loved one to make sure they are feeling up to celebrating the day.
  • Acts of kindness: From homemade treats to warm hugs, every little gesture shows you’ve got their back.
  • Be present: Sometimes, the best gift is simply being there – listening, laughing, and holding space for all the feels. 

Join our #SupportSquad

Want to learn how to be the best supporter you can be? Sign up to get access to free resources, tips, and stories from those who’ve been there.

Cancerversaries aren’t just milestones—they’re celebrations of life and love. So here’s to you, your resilience, and the road ahead! As you reflect on the past and embrace the future, may each cancerversary be a reminder of your indomitable spirit and the joy of living life to the fullest.

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Overly Supportive Behavior During Cancer: The Fine Line

When a young adult is diagnosed with cancer, it upends their life and sends shockwaves through the lives of those around them. In our eagerness to support, we may unintentionally cross into overly supportive territory, potentially leading to unintended consequences. At b-present, we are dedicated to guiding our community in refining their support strategies to enhance the well-being of young adults facing cancer.

Our Supporter Roadmap helps young adult support networks navigate this difficult time. It emphasizes the importance of understanding how our loved ones want to be supported before organizing and offering support. Understanding their needs and boundaries ensures they get the support they need when they need it. It mitigates the added stress that comes when well-intentioned but unhelpful support is offered.


 

Recognizing Overly Supportive Behavior

Overly supportive behavior, rooted in love and concern, can become overwhelming. Understanding these tendencies is crucial for adopting a more mindful approach to support.

The Constant Caregiver

Consider a scenario where help is non-stop. Meals are always ready, and every conversation revolves around health updates, often overwhelming the individual seeking normalcy and autonomy.

A Real-Life Example: Sarah’s Story

Sarah, 25, recently diagnosed with cancer, is enveloped in a wave of support from friends and family. Her best friend, Emily, becomes the epicenter of this support, organizing meal trains, group chats, and social media campaigns to rally support. Initially comforting, this barrage of support soon becomes suffocating for Sarah. She begins to feel like her personal challenges have turned into a public spectacle, limiting her ability to express her true needs and feelings.

Emily’s well-meaning actions highlight a common pitfall of overly supportive behavior: the overwhelming intensity and volume of support can block the individual’s own needs, leading to stress rather than comfort.

The Optimism Overload

Demanding optimism, with constant reminders to “Just stay positive” or assurances that “Everything will be fine!” can pressure the individual to mask their true emotions, intensifying feelings of isolation.

The Rallying Cry

Attempts to demonstrate support with public displays or social media initiatives can unintentionally turn private struggles into unwanted public affairs, heightening the discomfort of your loved one. It is important to honor the privacy boundaries of the person diagnosed and not overshare without their approval.

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The Unintended Consequences of Being Overly Supportive

The results of overly supportive behavior can deeply affect the mental and emotional well-being of young adults with cancer.

Increased Stress and Anxiety

The relentless focus on positivity and recovery can increase stress, placing an unnecessary burden on the individual to update, thank, and reassure their supporters.

Loss of Personal Space and Identity

Overly supportive actions that overlook the need for privacy and autonomy can amplify the loss of self, pushing the individual to yearn for interactions that transcend their illness. The b-there connection & support app helps minimize unwanted or misaligned interactions by helping supporters know how and when to show up, or when to give space.

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Strained Relationships

When support becomes overbearing, it can strain relationships, leading to withdrawal and isolation at a time when genuine connection is crucial.

Navigating Support with Sensitivity

Identifying the delicate balance between being supportive and overly so is essential. Support should respect boundaries, embrace the full spectrum of emotions, and sometimes, simply provide a quiet, unassuming presence that respects the individual’s need for empathy, authenticity, and normalcy.

Offering Support without Overstepping

Gestures like sending a no-pressure message or engaging in non-cancer-centered activities can be profoundly supportive, acknowledging the individual’s struggle while respecting their autonomy.

Creating a Safe Space for Authentic Expression

Fostering an environment of open, judgment-free communication allows individuals to express their true feelings, ensuring they feel heard and understood without the pressure to appear strong.

Striking the Right Balance

Supporting a loved one with cancer can be scary and overwhelming, but your loved one needs your empathy and understanding now more than ever. By being mindful of our approach and sensitive to the unique needs and boundaries of young adults, we can offer support that truly uplifts, empowers, and most importantly, respects the individuality of each person’s cancer experience.

At b-present, we are committed to cultivating a community of support grounded in intention, empathy, and genuine connection. We invite you to join us in rethinking how we support young adults with cancer, ensuring our actions and words provide upliftment without overwhelming.

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Tips to Help Choose a Connection & Support App After Cancer

After a cancer diagnosis life can feel chaotic. Choosing a good connection and support app can help everyone stay on the same page and keep things running smoothly. If you are new to the cancer experience, you may not know where to start with organizing support. Our Supporter Roadmap is a great first read to find helpful information and tips to navigate this difficult time.


Understanding what is ahead and how your loved one with cancer wants to connect and be supported will help frame how to move forward and work together to organize and empower the support network. The next step is finding some helpful tools and resources to make communicating easy, keep you up to date and in sync with their needs.

Finding the Right App

There are a variety of apps and tools available to help with organizing support, connecting patients with their caregivers and peers, and improving communication and connection. For example, if you want a simple and easy tool to clearly communicate with each other, the b-there App for connection and support is a great option. Click the button below to learn more.


It is often a personal choice when it comes to selecting the best app(s) for the job, and it depends on the needs of the patient and the support network. Continue reading for some helpful tips to find an app that is right for you.

Questions to ask:

  • Ease of use
    • Is the app user-friendly and easy to navigate?
    • Does it have a clear and simple interface that allows users to find the information they need?
    • The more complex the app is, the less likely people will use it.
  • Customization
    • Does the app allow users to customize their profiles and communication preferences? This includes setting privacy settings, as well as selecting who has access to certain information.
  • Features
    • Does the app have features that are useful for both the patient and the support network?
    • Some examples: requesting support (meals, transportation, errands, visits, items), sharing status updates (short form or journal entries), desire to connect, and private messaging.
  • Privacy/Security
    • Does the app protect personal information and data?
    • Does it require user authentication to login?
    • Are you able to delete people from your network, as well as completely delete your account at any time?
  • Community
    • Does the app have a supportive community of users who can provide support and advice?

Tips to Help Choose a Connection & Support App After Cancer

App features to consider

Define the key features and functions most helpful and important to the loved one being supported and the support network. Consider getting together to discuss your goals with using the app and brainstorm what features are necessary. Everyone will have different goals, so try to find a good compromise.

Below is a list of features to consider:

  • Login + Authentication
    • Do you prefer to use one of your existing accounts to log in or do you prefer to use your email and create a password?
    • When you are done using the app, are you able to completely delete your account (caution: uninstalling the app does not necessarily mean your data is removed).
  • Profile
    • Do you want to be able to access your contacts, photos when creating your profile?
    • What kind of information is important to include in your profile?
    • Is the information optional or required? Having fields that are optional is nice and gives you the flexibility to share as you see fit.
  • Network Setup
    • Prefer an invite-only network or do you want anyone that wants to help see your status and needs?
    • Want to limit what each person sees?
    • Do you want to be able to delete contacts that are less than helpful?
  • Status + Updates
    • What is your communication style?
    • What will be most helpful for the group to organize support and be present to best match your needs?
    • Direct and to the point? Or is a journaling format more your thing?
      • A journaling feature is helpful for processing emotions as well as keeping people updated, and some supporters enjoy reading the longer entries. However, other supporters may prefer short, clear directions so they can best understand how you are and how they can show up for you. With a journaling style, they may still need clarification on what support is needed, so make sure other features address this more immediate information need.
  • Calendar + Scheduling
    • Is it important to have a calendar within the app, or do you prefer to use your own calendar to track events and tasks? There are advantages to both, and it just depends on whether you will be diligent about checking multiple calendars or prefer having everything in your master calendar associated with your email.
  • Wishlist
    • Do you want to be able to coordinate needed items or activities? If so, a wish list can be a useful feature. To avoid duplication, ensure there is a signup management feature so that once someone claims a wish, it is no longer available to others. This will save time and avoid confusion and duplication of wishes. Also, being able to provide links to exact items, shared documents or lists reduces stress for everyone.
  • Messaging
    • Do you want to have a messaging system within the app, or is it easier to use your existing communication methods separately from the app? Similar to the calendar feature, things can get missed if you have to track multiple apps. Also, consider whether the loss of those messages after the account is deleted is a problem.
  • Notifications
    • Do you want to be notified when there are updates? If so, how?
    • Do you want to have the flexibility to adjust your notification preferences?
  • Health Information Tracking
    • Do you want the app to be a full-service app that tracks other health information as well? It can be nice to have everything in one place, but may also create a much more complicated app experience. This is especially true if you are connecting to other health or hospital systems.

Although not a complete list, the feature list above will get the conversation started. Once you have your list of needs, compare it to the features and functionality of each app and select the one that best fits those needs. In some cases, you may need more than one app to meet your support needs.

When in Doubt – Ask the Community for Their Input

If you still have questions or are unsure, consider asking health professionals, other patients, and caregivers that have experience to get their feedback on a particular app. Before making a final selection, confirm it will work for everyone. If the app is too complicated for the group, or not available for their mobile device, those can be deterrents to staying coordinated.

Tips to Help Choose a Connection & Support App After Cancer 2

Connection and support app options

Several online connection and support apps are available. Here are a few apps designed to improve connection and support after a cancer diagnosis (listed alphabetically):

  • b-there connection & support: A free mobile app that eases communication and connection. Patients and survivors can share their status, desire to connect, manage activities, and request needed items. Supporters can check the app for updates on how their loved one feels before connecting or stopping by, and they can sign up to fulfill items from their wish list.
  • CaringBridge: A free, personal website that allows patients and their loved ones to share updates, photos, and videos. It also provides a way to schedule meals, rides, and appointments.
  • Ianacare: A platform that makes it easy to coordinate and schedule help and support for patients and their caregivers. It also provides a way to connect with other people who are going through similar experiences.
  • Lotsa Helping Hands: A care coordination platform that enables friends and family to provide support to loved ones during a health crisis.
  • MealTrain: A meal coordination platform that makes it easy for friends and family to sign up to bring meals to patients and their caregivers.

Have you had a good experience with another app? Contact us and share the link.

Helpful tips for using the app

After selecting the app, these steps will help ensure the best experience possible.

Send everyone the app information 

Send them a link and be sure it is available on their mobile device. Urge them to download the app, register, and set up their account as soon as possible, ensuring they are ready to support when needed. If it is helpful for group members, set up a time to get together and walk through the app and help everyone become familiar with it.

Agree to some basic support ground rules

Setting a few ground rules about group behavior, including communication etiquette, providing timely updates, checking the app regularly, following through, responding to wish invitations, and honoring visit and support preferences, will keep things on track. It may help to identify a lead and a backup supporter to ensure timely updates are provided when a loved one is unwell or unable to provide their own updates. A tool is only as good as the information provided, so if it is outdated or incorrect, you may get the opposite effect, discouraging the support network from staying connected, and worse, causing the person needing help to feel unsupported.

Check the app regularly 

Notifications vary from app to app, so everyone needs to check the app regularly so updates and needs are not missed. Life gets busy, so setting a regular reminder to check is always a good plan. Once support is underway, work together to keep things running smoothly. Needs and updates will vary, but if there is an important update and you want to make sure everyone sees it, you can also use a group chat urging everyone to check the app (remembering to honor any privacy guidelines set out by the patient on these other channels).

Be specific with needs 

When asking for support or comfort items, the old saying “be careful what you wish for” holds especially true here. If you have something specific in mind or if there are some critical date/time/location requirements, be as specific as possible. This means including links to shared documents or lists or, as appropriate, a URL to a specific item so the supporter clicks the link and has a clear idea of what is needed (or buy the item). The clearer you can be, the better – it will reduce confusion and stress for everyone.

Tips to Help Choose a Connection & Support App After Cancer 3

We’re stronger together.

It takes a village to support someone going through a difficult life event like cancer, so work together, be flexible, be patient, and kind to each other. The experience will likely be new for everyone. A good coordination tool is only one piece of the puzzle. Good communication is also vital to providing good support. We don’t know what we don’t know, so being clear will save time, energy, money, and, most importantly, reduces stress and uncertainty. Have each other’s back, try not to take things personally, and respect your loved one’s choices and decisions.

By following these basic guidelines and using the tool(s) consistently, you will be stronger together. By everyone doing their part, the workload will be more manageable, and the quality of life will improve for your loved ones and you.

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Intentionally Supporting a Friend with Cancer

Supporting a friend or loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing. It’s important to remember that, as a friend, you have the power to improve on your loved one’s experience. However, it’s crucial to be intentional in your support to ensure that you provide the most effective and beneficial assistance possible.

Understanding Your Role and Setting Intentions

To be intentional, start by clarifying your priorities and goals in supporting your friend. This clarity will help you align your actions with your goals and determine how you will spend your time and energy. For instance, if your aim is to offer tangible support, consider helping with household chores, preparing meals, or driving to appointments. Taking notes during medical visits can also be immensely helpful!


Fostering Connection and Communication

If your goal is to ensure your friend feels less alone, create opportunities for regular in-person or virtual interactions. Continue to include them in social events, understanding that they might not always be able to participate. Should your focus be on being a supportive listener, understand their preferred communication style and be consistent in your approach.

Practice active listening

One of the most important things to keep in mind when supporting a friend with cancer is to listen actively and be present. Cancer can be isolating, and many people feel they are facing their diagnosis alone. You can help your friend feel heard and understood by actively listening and being present. This can be as simple as asking how they’re feeling, being available to talk, or simply being there to hold their hand.

 

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Respect their boundaries

Another critical aspect of supporting a friend with cancer is respecting their boundaries. Everyone’s experience with cancer is different, and what one person needs or wants may not be the same as another. It’s important to ask your friend what they need and to respect their wishes. For example, if they don’t want to talk about their diagnosis, please respect that.

Words Matter

Be mindful of the language you use when talking to your friend about their cancer. Avoid using language that minimizes or trivializes their experience. For example, starting your response with “At least…” immediately minimizes their feelings. And avoid making assumptions about what they are going through. Instead, use language that is inclusive, empowering, and non-judgmental. For example, instead of saying “I know exactly how you feel, my _____ had _____” try something that acknowledges their experience is unique to them. Instead use “That must be really difficult” or “I can’t imagine what was that like for you.”.

supporting a friend 1

Offer practical support

In addition to emotional support, you can also provide practical assistance. For example, you can offer to drive your loved one to appointments, help with grocery shopping, or help with cooking meals. These small acts of kindness can make a big difference in the life of someone going through cancer treatment.

Be consistent when supporting a friend

Support for a friend with cancer is not a one-time effort. The need for support doesn’t end when treatment ends. The road ahead is often long and difficult. Be patient and understanding, and continue being there for your friend through all the ups and downs.

Balancing Support with Self-Care

Supporting a friend with cancer is a challenging but rewarding endeavor. Remember: You can’t be a good supporter if you’re running on empty. Balance your own needs with the needs of your friend. Whether that’s ensuring you schedule in your own self-care, start therapy, etc. Think about what you need in order to feel like you can support your friend without sacrificing your own well-being. By being intentional, actively listening, respecting boundaries, using supportive language, offering practical help, and being patient, you can make a significant difference in your friend’s life during their cancer experience.

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Cancer, Family, and the Holidays

The holidays are a time filled with joy, love, and cherished traditions. However, when cancer becomes part of the equation, the festivities can take on a different tone. Patients and caregivers often feel the holiday blues as they face disconnection and uncertainty, while family and friends may find it challenging to strike the right balance between celebration and empathy.

In this blog, we share tips to enhance the holiday experience for everyone involved.

Tip 1: Be Present, Not Perfect

In the pursuit of holiday perfection, families impacted by cancer may feel undue pressure and stress. The key to a more meaningful and less stressful holiday lies in being present, not perfect.

Your loved one may not feel ready to join large gatherings or family traditions. They may want to spend time by themselves or only with a few people. Allow them to “drive the bus” this season by recognizing and respecting their needs, wishes, and desires.

Tip 2: Understand What Your Loved Ones with Cancer are Going Through

Depending on where each person is with their cancer experience, the needs and holiday adjustments will look different. Understand the challenges your loved ones face.

  • Do they have sensitivity to certain foods or smells?
  • Do they have a compromised immune system?
  • Do they have any residual effects, including anxiety, physical changes, depression, mobility limitations, or reduced energy? 

Whether you are planning the celebration or are a supportive family member or friend, it’s essential to understand what they are going through, what is creating stress, and what concerns or limitations exist to help reduce stress and give them the normalcy they desire. 

Remember that they don’t want the holidays to revolve solely around their illness. Treat them as individuals, not patients, and cherish the little moments together.

Tip 3: Clearly Communicate and Manage Expectations

Good communication is the foundation of a positive holiday experience. Be clear and open about specific needs, concerns, and priorities, then work together to provide support. By focusing on what truly matters to them, you can build stronger relationships and create traditions and memories that embrace the spirit of the season.

Remember, good communication goes both ways. If you don’t know what they want, ask them. 

If you aren’t sure how to stay connected and communicate with your loved ones, try the b-there app! Our app was designed specifically for busy young adults who are balancing life and being supportive friends. Survivors can easily share their status, desire to connect, manage activities, and request needed items. Supporters can check the app for updates on how their loved one feels before connecting or stopping by, and they can sign up to fulfill items from their wish list.

The app is free and available to download now on iOS and Android

Tip 4: Tweak Holiday Traditions

Traditions are important but can be overwhelming during challenging times. This year, evaluate the significance of each activity and prioritize those that truly matter: Celebrating relationships and enjoying spending time with loved ones. Embrace change and focus on creating new, meaningful experiences. Don’t be afraid to be realistic about your abilities, pace your activities, and give yourself (or your loved ones) the freedom to decline invitations or alter plans as needed.

Example: If your tradition involves gathering the family for Christmas dinner, you can achieve that without spending hours in the kitchen. Ask each guest to bring a dish and have a pot-luck, have the meal catered, meet at a restaurant, or go to someone else’s house.

Tip 5: Involving Your Support Network in New Holiday Plans

Once holiday plans are established, engage family and friends in the process. Keep them informed about the new arrangements and provide guidance on ways they can contribute positively. Remind them of any sensitivities related to cancer, and emphasize the value of presence and shared memories over material gifts.

However, if expressing love through gift-giving is important in your circle, explore unique and thoughtful gift options on platforms like Love Her Hug Her or Carebetter. These sites offer ideas that are especially considerate for those affected by cancer. Additionally, your loved one can create a wishlist on the b-there app. This allows them to request items that align with their specific needs, and supporters can fulfill their requests.

For those who find it easier to organize gift-giving, setting up a registry can be a practical solution. WeGotThis.org is an excellent platform for this purpose. The WeGotThis.org Registry was created by Elissa Kalver, a stage 4 metastatic breast Cancer Thriver. Going through her first rounds of chemo, she thought, “So many people in our lives want to help us through this journey. What if there was something like a wedding or baby registry that could offer all of the things a cancer patient actually needs?”

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What to do when it doesn’t feel like there is much to celebrate during the holidays

In this episode of our Support Squad Webinar Series, Cancer and the Holidays: What to do when it doesn’t feel like there is much to celebrate, Chiara Riga, Kara Noskoff, and Abby Westerman discuss the impact cancer has on the holidays (and vice versa), the challenges and concerns from the survivor and supporter perspectives, and provide some helpful strategies and tips for adjusting plans and expectations to create a holiday celebration that is mindful of the current situation.

While each cancer experience is unique, embracing these tips can contribute to a holiday season filled with inclusivity, meaning, and lasting memories. Remember, the key is not perfection but being present, understanding, and good communication. Let’s meet our loved ones where they are and not where we want them to be.

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Embracing Gratitude: How to Cultivate a Thankful Heart and Stronger Relationships

As Thanksgiving draws near, our thoughts naturally turn to gratitude – a sentiment that warms the air and fills our days with appreciation. Beyond a seasonal tradition, gratitude becomes a guiding light, offering profound benefits for our well-being. Let’s dive into what being grateful means for us and explore how embracing this transformative emotion can enrich our lives, bolster our health, and strengthen our relationships.

The Science of Gratitude

There are lots of ways to talk about gratitude, but our favorite comes from Dr. Robert Emmons, a renowned researcher in the science of gratitude. He says…

“Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

Being grateful is not merely an emotion but a dynamic force for positive change. It brings joy, love, and optimism while protecting against destructive impulses, such as envy and resentment. Its impact on our mental and emotional health is profound, making it an invaluable tool in our journey toward overall well-being.

Dr. Emmons breaks it down into two key parts:

Recognize the Good: Make an effort to notice the good stuff in our lives. It’s like actively searching for moments of beauty, kindness, and strength when life throws us challenges. This recognition becomes the backbone for building a positive mindset and a strong spirit.

Acknowledge External Sources: Gratitude is a team sport, recognizing that the good things often come from outside ourselves. It’s the support from friends, unexpected moments of joy, and the connections we share that make our appreciation grow.

 

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How can we make gratitude a part of our everyday lives?

Mindful Moments: Incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. Whether through meditation or a mindful walk, these practices can help you appreciate the present moment and foster a sense of gratitude.

Journaling and Getting Specific: Keep a journal to document moments of positivity. Dive into the details of what (and who) you’re grateful for; the more specific, the better. Specificity intensifies feelings of gratitude, creating a lasting impact.

Express How You Feel: Gratitude is a gift meant to be shared. Let those who positively impact your life know through words, gestures, or acts of kindness. This helps strengthen relationships and fosters a sense of community.

 

It’s more than a feeling

As we stand on the cusp of gratefulness, let’s embrace this positive emotion. Not just as a seasonal sentiment but as a constant companion in our lives. By recognizing the good, acknowledging external sources, and practicing gratitude in meaningful ways, we cultivate a positive foundation for well-being. This season and beyond, let gratitude be your guiding light, reminding us of the richness that comes from a thankful heart.

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Supporting a Friend with Cancer: Avoiding Burnout and Isolation

Supporting a friend with cancer is one of the most selfless and loving acts you can undertake. Your role as a supporter is pivotal, creating a safety net of care, encouragement, and hope for your friend. But let’s be real for a moment: being on the front lines of support can sometimes feel overwhelming and lonely.

In this piece, we’ll delve deeper into the challenges of supporting a friend with cancer. More specifically, the often overlooked topic of supporter burnout and isolation. We’ll discuss how to recognize it, why it’s essential to care for yourself too, and how to find your own support team.

The Realities of Burnout When Supporting a Friend with Cancer

Burnout is the result of prolonged stress and emotional exhaustion. When you’re constantly in a caregiving role, it’s easy to neglect your own needs and feelings. It’s essential to recognize when you’re feeling drained to ensure you can continue supporting a friend with cancer effectively.

Here are some signs of burnout: 

  1. Feeling constantly drained or fatigued.
  2. Becoming increasingly irritable or impatient.
  3. Feeling helpless or hopeless.
  4. Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  5. Experiencing physical symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches.

If any of these sound familiar, it might be time to reassess and recharge.

Isolation: The Silent Struggle of Supporters

Many supporters feel a sense of isolation because they believe that others cannot understand the weight of their experiences. This feeling can prevent you from seeking help or expressing your feelings, leading to further detachment from your social circles.

Finding Balance: You Matter Too

It’s essential to recognize that to continue supporting a friend with cancer, you need to be at your best too. You can’t pour from an empty cup, after all. Here are some steps to help you find balance:

  1. Set Boundaries: It’s okay to say no or to take a break. Setting boundaries protects your energy and ensures you can continue to be there for your friend in the long run.
  2. Indulge in Self-Care: Whether it’s reading a book, taking a walk, or indulging in your favorite hobby, spend time doing what makes you happy and relaxed.
  3. Seek Professional Help: Sometimes, talking to a therapist can offer valuable insights.

 

Building Your Squad of Support

As the saying goes, “It takes a village.” Surrounding yourself with a supportive team is vital. Here’s how:

  1. Engage in Support Groups: Connect with others who understand what it’s like to be supporting a friend with cancer.
  2. Lean on Friends and Family: Sharing experiences can offer relief and provide unexpected insights.
  3. Community Involvement: Getting involved in community activities can provide a refreshing break and foster connections.

 

Your commitment to being there for your friend through the good and the bad is critical. But remember, it’s equally important to prioritize your well-being. By recognizing burnout and isolation, finding balance, and building your support squad, you ensure that both you and your friend will be better equipped to face the challenges ahead.

Remember: we’re stronger together. 

Learn more about supporting a friend with cancer:

 

How to Write a Thoughtful Thank You Note to Someone Who Supported You During Cancer

Writing a thank you note is an art form, especially when you want to convey gratitude for support during an emotional time like dealing with a cancer diagnosis. A thoughtfully written note can offer sincere appreciation in a way that deeply resonates with the recipient. Here’s how to write a heartfelt thank you note to someone who has been your pillar of strength during such a trying time.

Understand the Importance

Firstly, understand that this note serves multiple purposes. It is a way to convey gratitude and a gesture that can strengthen your bond with the person. Writing and sending the note can also be cathartic for you, giving you a chance to reflect on the support you’ve received.

Identify Your Recipient’s Communication Style

Different people have different communication styles. Some people are straightforward and prefer clear, concise messages. Others might appreciate an emotional or poetic tone. Try to match the note to their communication style to make it most meaningful to them.

Straightforward Style: If your supporter is a no-nonsense person who values concise communication, keep your note simple and direct.

Emotional Style: If the person has been emotionally supportive and you’ve shared intimate details of your journey, a heartfelt and expressive note might be more appropriate.

Formal Style: A more formal tone might be fitting for a healthcare provider or a distant relative who’s been supportive.

Casual Style: Friends and close family members may appreciate a more relaxed and candid approach.

Key Elements to Include in Your Note

  • Opening: Address them warmly, using a salutation you would typically use in conversation with them.
  • Specifics: Clearly state what you are thankful for. General statements are nice, but specificity adds a personal touch.
  • Impact: Explain how their support made you feel or improved your situation.
  • Closing: Sum up your thanks and look to the future, perhaps by mentioning how you hope to repay their kindness or continue to keep in touch.

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Sample Thank You Notes

Example 1: Straightforward Style

Dear [Name],

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your constant support during my cancer treatment. Your weekly check-ins and help with my medical appointments made a difficult time more manageable.

Thanks again for your kindness.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Example 2: Emotional Style

My Dearest [Name],

Words fail to capture the depth of my gratitude for your unwavering support during my cancer experience. You’ve been my rock. During those long chemotherapy sessions, your heartfelt messages and companionship lightened my burden.

With all my love,

[Your Name]

Example 3: Formal Style

Dear Dr. [Name],

I wish to express my sincere gratitude for your exceptional care during my cancer treatment. Your expertise and compassionate approach have profoundly impacted my healing journey.

Yours faithfully,

[Your Name]

Example 4: Casual Style

Hey [Name],

Just wanted to say a big THANK YOU! Having you by my side during the chemo has been awesome. I couldn’t have binge-watched all those shows without you!

Catch up soon?

Best,

[Your Name]

Final Thoughts

A thank you note doesn’t have to be long or complicated to be meaningful. Keep it genuine and true to your feelings, and it will surely touch the heart of the recipient. After all, the best thank you notes come from a place of sincere appreciation and love.

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