Be an open ear for your friend to talk through what's on her mind
Cancer Care

Waiting on Test Results: Be There for a Loved One or Friend

Search our network of doctors and schedule your appointment today

In my circle of cancer-survivor friends, one word we use is "Scanxiety." You try to focus on happy thoughts and convince yourself that everything is going to be just fine, but worst-case scenarios keep popping into your head. Whether the test is for you or a loved one, nerves and anxiety run high . However, there are a number of things you can do to be a friend and support a loved one who is waiting on test results and experiencing these feelings.

Help Out

When offering to help, it's all too easy to shrug off the responsibility -- even when we ma y not mean to. We often say, "call me if you need anything," but in reality, few will ever call to ask for that help. Even if it was offered in all sincerity, it can still feel weird to call someone and say, "remember when you offered to help?" Instead, offer precise ways that you can be of assistance. You could say, "I'm taking my kids to the park this afternoon. Would you like your kids to join us?"

Decision-making can be difficult at a time like this, so reduce the amount of decisions that your friend needs to make. If you'd like to bring your friend dinner, instead of asking what she or he wants (which may result in a lot of hemming and hawing or a blanket request for "anything"), offer a choice between a few options: "I'm bringing you dinner. You can freeze it if you don't want it tonight. Would you prefer lasagna or soup?"

Focus on Them

It's scary to think that someone you care about might have an illness, but remember that the focus here should not be your feelings, but those of your friend. Of course, you might need support and reassurance yourself, but try to get that help from someone who is not personally experiencing this crisis. You are providing support, so don't put your friend in the position of having to reassure you as well.

Let your friend drive the conversation. If your friend wants to talk about fear, let it happen, even if it's uncomfortable for you. This should be your friend's time to talk about what he or she needs to talk about. It is tempting to say, "You will be fine," but you both know that you can't make that guarantee. Instead, a more helpful thing to say would be something like "I'll be here for you, no matter what the test results reveal."

In many cases, people want to talk about anything but the upcoming test results, so don't be afraid to steer the conversation toward a favorite or lighter topic. It's OK to help take your friend's mind off the situation at hand.

Be There

Carve some time out of your schedule to be there while your friend is waiting for test results to come in. Go shopping, go out for lunch, go to a movie, or go to a baseball game. Try to do something fun together to help take everyone's mind off of the matter at hand. When the time comes, go to the appointment and offer to drive home after.

This is just a small sampling of ideas for helping someone through a tough time. Once the test results come in, remember that your friend may still need some help and attention. If the results are not what your friend hoped for, he or she will need you to be there. If the news is good, take your friend out to celebrate, and remember that experiencing this kind of fear can be exhausting, even when things end well.

Posted in Cancer Care

Judy Schwartz Haley is a freelance writer and blogger. She grew up in Alaska and now makes her home in Seattle with her husband and young daughter. Judy battled breast cancer when her daughter was an infant, and now she devotes much of her free time to volunteering as a state leader with the Young Survival Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer.

More articles from this writer

Birth Plan 101: Why and How to Create a Plan for Childbirth

What to Expect With Your Newborn: Crying

Mental Health First Aid: How to Help Someone in Crisis

*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.