Friday, May 20, 2011

When a friend has cancer

In 2007, while working on assignment for The Dallas Morning News, I met two remarkable young women. One was a cancer survivor; the other was her friend, and I don’t use the word “friend” loosely. I mean friend.

LaGracia Jones was only 22 when doctors diagnosed her with third-stage colon cancer. Teshai Bogar was the friend who never left her side for the two years of treatment. Their story inspired me and confirmed my belief that one person can make a difference.

If you have friends battling cancer, as I do, perhaps you’re wondering how to help, or if there’s anything you can do to make their journey easier. The good news is even if you don’t have much time to offer, or you live far away, you can still make a difference in the life of someone with cancer.

The full article can be read by clicking on the black-and-white image (may have to click twice for full resolution; I apologize for lack of quality), but I’ve taken from the article a list that might be of assistance. It’s broken down by the amount of time you can devote.

While it’s not mentioned in the article, praying for our friends is something we all can do. Prayer is a powerful weapon against disease.

I was a teenager when the experts at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center told me I had a malignant tumor (it has a long name like mucoepidermoid carcinoma buccal mucosa). I was told I would need surgery, and a minimum of 25 rounds of radiation. It’s a powerful story, one which appears in one of my books, and I blogged about it here. In summary, I’m a testimony to the power of the Great Physician—and without a single round of radiation—37 years later! So, don’t forget to pray for your friends with cancer. God is still a God of miracles.


There are countless ways to help, but what works for one may not work for another. Linda Vozzella, a patient clinical educator at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, says that asking, "How can I best help you?" is a great starting point.

These suggestions from cancer survivors are grouped by the availability of the volunteer.

If you have a lot of time:

Be a point person. The function of this person can vary from being a spokesperson for the family to coordinating other volunteers with appointments and activities.

If you have less time but are dependable:

  • Offer to manage one specific task, such as establishing a meal schedule. (Always ask about restricted foods.)
  • Get the children to and from school or activities.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Provide transportation to and from appointments.
  • Take care of the housecleaning and laundry.
  • Shop for groceries.
  • Handle insurance issues and related paperwork.
  • Watch the kids.
  • Send regular e-mail updates to friends.
  • Give a manicure or pedicure.

If you don't have much time:

  • Write notes, send cards.
  • Call or e-mail, but don't burden your friend with the responsibility of replying.
  • On a nice day, take your friend to an art gallery or arboretum or just to relax near a lake.
  • Send a custom gift basket with funny socks, inspirational CDs, videos or DVDs, books, magazines, stationery and pens, lotions, lip balm, organic soap (unscented), pretty scarves or hats.
  • Provide the services of a maid, a gardener or a massage therapist.
  • Above all, express concern.


  1. This was a very powerful post and I cannot wait to head over to read your other surgery. I also blogged about my daughter's diagnosis with cancer and the power of God and prayer.
    Thank you for all the practical ideas

  2. Those are some very practical tips, Dayle. So helpful in the "I want to do something" times. Thank you for sharing.

    I didn't know about your tumor diagnosis. I'll have to go read that now.

  3. Dayle:

    This post hits close to home for me, for as you probably know, my husband is a cancer survivor. (Almost eighteen years cancer free.) The tips you provided are so good - even for the spouse of the cancer patient.

    I did not know of your diagnosis and praise God for your healing. Even though John went through surgery and chemotherapy, we know where his true healing came from and we give God the glory.

    Your story is a testimony to the powerful healing hand of God.


  4. Dayle,
    Great post !!!
    How true that we need to be there for those that need us .. if its just a prayer or card
    we never know what that will do for the person
    Thanks so much for sharing such a great article

  5. This was wonderful, Dayle.
    Now, I'm headed to read your story. I just learned something new about you. Your story just gets better and better. Did you know that?

  6. Wow, Dayle, that was an amazing story. And I had no idea about YOUR amazing health challenge story. Thanks for sharing this powerful stuff. Susan

  7. Dayle,
    Thank you for the tips on helping a friend with cancer. I just went back and reread your blog from Spiritual Sundays (2009) and got tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Beautifully written and a praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus.


  8. This is so very needed. When both of my parents were dying from cancer, I saw a lot of their friends avoid them I afraid due to mostly not knowing what to say or avoiding the unpleasantness of it all.

  9. I have so many good friends that have battled this disease and like you, have won!

    A good friend, a true friend is worth more than any precious jewel!

    Thank you for sharing Dayle...thank you.

    Mrs. M.

  10. Beautiful post, thanks so much for sharing!
    Hope you have a special weekend. :)

  11. Really good advice and suggestions here, Dayle. I did many of these things when my mother-in-law was ill with cancer -- I know it made a difference for her...and it helped me walk through the process as well.

  12. You are one of the most thoughtful people in blog land.
    When it comes to help someone in situations like Cancer, I sometimes feel like I freeze up, and can't think of what to do. Your suggestions are very helpful. We can help someone in need, even if it's something small.

  13. Wonderful ideas, I like how you divided it into how much time you are able to give.

  14. This is a really good post, Dayle. Such good ideas that everyone can really use at one time or another. I love your simple solution below, too ~ what a lovely idea. :)


Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle