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by Abigail Van Buren

Casual Friendship May Grow Closer Over Husband's Illness

DEAR ABBY: I recently learned that the husband of a friend of mine has cancer. She shared the information with me during our last meeting. I was shocked and hardly knew how to respond. She is not a close friend, but we are fond of each other and enjoy getting together for a drink every now and then.

I want to let her know that I'm thinking of her and that I'm available if she needs anything, but I'm afraid of saying something cliched or insensitive. What is the most tactful way to do this? -- CHALLENGED IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR CHALLENGED: Contact your friend. Tell her you were shocked by the news she gave you, which may have been a cry for help. Make a point of staying in touch by calling to ask how she and her husband are doing.

Tell her you know she may be overwhelmed, and volunteer to bring food if she's too busy or stressed to cook, run errands for her or even do the laundry if her hands are full with caregiving. I can almost guarantee that if you do, you and this lady will be close friends in the future regardless of the outcome of her husband's illness.

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Health & Safety