DEAR HARRIETTE: I feel like too many people around me are getting sick. My best friend has been battling breast cancer for several years. Another close friend’s husband was just diagnosed with prostate cancer. My neighbor’s husband has metastatic prostate cancer. And that’s only the people closest to me. It is overwhelming for the ones who are sick and for their friends. I want to be a support to my friends, but I’m not sure how to do it. I am scared for them, and I don’t really know what to say. -- Supporting My Sick Friends
DEAR SUPPORTING MY SICK FRIENDS: The commitment that couples make when they marry comes to mind now -- in sickness and in health. Being a good friend to your loved ones who are fighting illness calls on that muscle that gives you the strength to stay by their side even when it’s tough. The way to be there is to be a good listener. You don’t need to try to solve any problems. Instead, just listen. Let your friends share their feelings, concerns and hopes. Resist the desire to try to solve their problems or be their doctor. Just be present in ways that make them feel supported and that don’t drain you too much.
You should also be vigilant about your own health. Be sure to get an annual complete physical, exercise regularly and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who has worked in Hollywood for about 15 years. He had a good run getting gigs and making a little money, but it seems like his day in the sun, so to speak, has ended. I have tried to contact him just to be a friend. I still live in our hometown, but we have kept in touch over the years. I figured he could use an old friend from back in the day to be there for him, but he isn’t responding. I can’t solve his career or financial problems, but I would like to be there for him for moral support. How can I get that message to him? -- Take My Hand
DEAR TAKE MY HAND: Send your friend a note with an invitation to hang out for a long weekend. Offer to come to him or add the options of meeting someplace else or even back at home. Tell him you think it’s time for the two of you to have some good old fun. Don’t bring up his career status. Keep it light.
Follow up with a call. If he doesn’t answer, leave the same upbeat message on his voicemail letting him know you miss him and want to get together. In the end, your friend has to grasp what’s happening in his life and make the appropriate changes in order to survive. It may take him a minute to come out of his funk in order to recognize the value of your outreach. Don’t give up on him. Periodically check in to see if he is ready to re-emerge.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)