Receiving a chronic illness diagnosis can scare anyone. It’s hard enough to deal with changing physical abilities and the possibility of a shorter lifespan, but living with a health condition can also be extremely costly.
Help is crucial for anyone who’s navigating a new diagnosis. Here are four ways to support a friend who’s struggling with a scary diagnosis:
1. Share resources.
The most valuable help you can give may be practical. After all, the rest of your friend’s life may continue as usual — they still need to pay their bills and put food on the table despite their changing reality. You can help them by finding the resources they may need.
For example, if your friend loses their job because their diagnosis interferes with their ability to carry out their duties, they could also find themselves without insurance coverage when they need it the most. They may be in panic mode, so direct them to the Marketplace, where they can find the best coverage for their needs. They may even qualify for Medicaid if they aren’t bringing in an income.
Therapy is a great option for many who are newly diagnosed, but medical costs may make affording a therapist impractical. Refer your friend to sliding-scale clinics, or suggest alternative therapeutic modalities, like listening to music or practicing gentle yoga to ease their fear and anxiety.
2. Accept your friend’s new reality.
If you and your friend discussed future road trips you’d like to take or a business idea you’d like to launch together, think about how their diagnosis will fit into your vision? How can you modify your plans to accept your friend’s new reality and still be there for them?
Sometimes, all it takes is a little creativity to help your friend see the possibilities that they still have. For example, people with dynamic disabilities, like multiple sclerosis, might find it impossible to teach a live class of students on a “flare day” — the brain fog and pain may make it impossible. However, they can pre-record lectures when they feel well, making them a valuable asset. They could even launch a YouTube channel or blog if they want to share their skills.
When panic over a scary diagnosis strikes, it can make it challenging for your friend to see the options they still have. Pointing these choices out can help them move towards a healthier future that accommodates their current physical abilities.
3. Cook for Them.
Think about the last time that you felt overwhelmed. Unless you cooked to cope, your diet probably got worse. Your friend’s might too without your help — so if you like cooking, make them some meals.
Many people turn to ultra-processed foods that are high in white flour and sugar out of convenience. While these foods are affordable and require little preparation, they can wreak havoc on your body, making it harder to produce insulin and increasing inflammation. Go to the farmer’s market and stock up on healthy grab-and-go snacks, like baby carrots and nuts.
If you’re a meal-prepper, double down on your kitchen time, and stock your friend’s freezer with healthy goodness. These easy breakfast berry quinoa muffins will help them start their day with filling fiber and antioxidants, and they taste heavenly with a cuppa.
4. Keep reaching out.
Loneliness can be one of the worst parts of any illness. Often, even close friends drift away after you cancel plans one too many times.
Please remember that canceling at the last minute is simply part of your friend’s changing reality — not an indication that your friend no longer values your time. Keep those invitations coming, even if you expect them to RSVP “no.”
A scary medical diagnosis can affect every aspect of your friend’s life. The physical symptoms are hard enough, but the emotional and financial strain often make it even more challenging. If your friend is struggling with a scary diagnosis, remember these tips. Your friend’s medical chart doesn’t impact how much you care about them, so please let them know how much you love them.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash