"To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart." Phyllis Theroux
Written notes of support are great. In fact, they are probably even better than phone calls. I mean who wants to get on the phone and describe for the umpteenth time their symptoms and treatment. And often the caller will ask a question that the ill person doesn't even know the answer to! Worse, calling on the phone often results in a message on the answering machine that the person feels obliged to return.
A written note gives support without requiring a response.
Another way you could support a friend facing an illness is to share phone numbers or email addresses of friends (after checking first) who have gone through the same illness. It's invaluable talking to others who have been in the same situation,
One great service you could offer is to call their friends after surgery to let them know how it went. For example when a dear friend had surgery and all her friends were holding their breath to hear the results, she had a friend call us and give us the news. It kept us from bothering her and blocking up her phone line but we got the information we needed to mobilize our support to the next level.
Check out Caring Bridge- Here you can get a Web page for free to update family on progress daily or weekly. Very easy to use!!! And it's a great way to communicate with family and friends across the country!
My friend also appreciated simple notes of encouragement, often from people she didn't know that well. They made her feel comforted and loved. So go on, reach out, even if you do not consider yourself a close friend.
Finally, for people with chronic conditions, be careful with your choice of card. Another friend told me it really upset her to receive Get Well cards when her mother was dying. It's not always easy finding the right card – but it is better if you steer more towards caring and "We are thinking of you" cards. As far as what to write when you have just learned of their serious diagnosis, how about something like "I have just heard you are going through some daunting health issues and wanted you to know you are in my thoughts and prayers."