Groundhog Friends

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

I’m often asked how to be a friend to someone with cancer.

I generally answer this question by encouraging them to be good listeners and to be present for their friend in every sense of the word.

The best friends are what I describe as “groundhog friends.”

Remember the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? The same day kept reappearing. That isn’t a good trait for one’s day, but it’s a terrific trait for a friend of someone with cancer.

When you’re first diagnosed, many people call, send notes, and help in a variety of ways. That’s great and those kindnesses are appreciated.

But cancer is more a marathon than a sprint. The challenging time is when the initial outpouring of support slows and you still have four months of chemotherapy looming ahead.

  • A groundhog friend checks on you throughout the course of your treatment.
  • A groundhog friend keeps sending notes of support.
  • A groundhog friend keeps popping up to do things that make your life easier.
  • A groundhog friend isn’t offended by your crankiness on those inevitable bad days.
  • A groundhog friend doesn’t change the subject when you have bad news to share.
  • A groundhog friend keeps filling your freezer with food.
  • A groundhog friend brings in other friends when you’re in the mood and keeps them away when you aren’t.
  • Above all, a groundhog friend keeps reappearing, day after day.

From the Ithaca Journal.

Click here for all of Bob’s columns

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