How to Help a Friend With Metastatic Melanoma

Health Writer
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When a friend is diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, you may not know what to do. Should you reach out? Will you be intruding if you visit? What is the best way to help? Keep reading for tips on how you can help a friend with advanced melanoma.


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Help sort through the overwhelming information

When someone is diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, the number of visits to the doctor increases, and many of these appointments are filled with an overwhelming amount of information on the diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis. Offer to attend doctors’ appointments and take notes. You can be a second set of ears and ask questions if necessary.


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Focus on your friend’s unique needs

You might feel you need to cheer the person up, talk through any silence, or keep them busy. But each person with cancer has unique needs. Instead of deciding what your friend needs, ask and listen. There may be times they want to go out, and times when they don’t have the energy to leave the house. A cancer diagnosis can make them feel helpless. Making their own decisions about their care gives them back a sense of control.


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Listen to them

Allow your friend to share information on their experiences without judging or offering advice. Sometimes they may need to vent about how awful cancer treatment is, or talk about how frightened they are about the prospect of dying. Resist the urge to change the subject and let them talk.


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Educate yourself about metastatic melanoma

Take the time to learn about metastatic melanoma and what resources are available. Every illness has its own language, and your friend might appreciate someone else knowing what all of these new terms mean. Read about metastatic melanoma, the treatment, and the vocabulary so not only can you follow along as your friend discusses treatment, you are also more aware of what they are going through. The more you know, the more effective you will be at helping your friend.


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Don’t offer unsolicited advice

Keep your ideas about cures, prayers, and positive thinking to yourself. While you may feel that you are being helpful, these types of comments can leave a person feeling worse than before. Unless your friend wants to discuss them, it’s best to keep God and spiritual beliefs out of the conversation.


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Don’t tell them everything will be OK

Well-meaning friends may say, “It will all be OK,” or “I know you will beat this.” But there is a good chance it won’t be OK, and they won’t beat it. Avoid these types of sentiments. Instead, say, “I am so sorry you are going through this,” “This must be difficult for you,” or “I am here for whatever you need.”


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Offer practical help

Find out what is most distressing to your friend and try to help with that. For example, they might dread having to tell friends and neighbors about their latest cancer news, repeating the same information continuously. Maybe you could help with that task. Or maybe grocery shopping each week is exhausting. Maybe you could take over that chore. Ask what one task you could do to help.


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Focus on their hobbies

Make plans for fun activities — but make sure they are activities your friend thinks are fun. Help them continue to participate in their hobbies, even if they can’t fully participate. For example, if your friend is a reader but finds it difficult to focus on books, read to them. If they enjoy gardening but can’t, set up a chair outside so they can supervise your gardening. If your friend likes to collect items, spend the afternoon searching the internet together for new items.


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Help with household tasks

People undergoing treatment for metastatic melanoma often don’t have the energy to complete household tasks. Help with cooking, cleaning, and laundry is usually appreciated. Consider preparing double dinners at home and then bringing the extras to your friend each week.


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Be there, physically and emotionally

Spend time with your friend with metastatic melanoma. Texts, Facebook messages, and phone calls are nice, but they do not compare to taking the time to visit, sitting with your friend, offering a shoulder to cry on— just being there.


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Don’t help at first and forget to come back later

Frequently, people with metastatic melanoma need ongoing help. In the beginning, friends are there, but that assistance often fades away. Instead of spending a great deal of time with your friend only in the early days, commit to helping for one to two hours a week for as long as they need assistance.