“8 Ways to Support a Loved One with Cancer”
This article is written by Scott Sanders. Scott is the creator of CancerWell.Org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, three out of four families will include someone who receives a cancer diagnosis. If you’ve got a friend or family member who’s undergoing cancer treatment, here are some of the ways you can help.
Advocate for the best treatment.
Assist your loved one in researching doctors and options. Accompany them to doctor’s appointments; take notes, ask questions. Help research treatment options—and don’t rule out alternative therapies, like acupuncture, massage, nutritional counseling, yoga, meditation, and guided imagery, that help patients deal with treatment side effects and the disease itself.
With the rise in opioid addiction, also be mindful of painkiller usage. Your loved one may express concern that he doesn’t want to rely on strong painkillers, but there are precautions that reduce the possibility of addiction.
Don’t worry so much about what to say.
Just be there. You won’t be able to fix everything—that’s impossible. But be present. Your presence gives emotional, spiritual, social, and even physical support, and that’s invaluable. So is the relief of your loved one knowing they can relax, be themselves, and express their emotions without worrying about how someone else may react.
Offer practical help.
Don’t wait for your loved one to ask—and don’t just ask what they need. Do you have kids the same age as your loved one? Collect them for a playdate. Are you heading to the grocery store? Grab her grocery list, too. If you’re a natural organizer, use one of the online apps to coordinate a meal train. Synch your calendars so you know their chemo and doctor’s appointments and can check in or send a little card or gift as a pick-me-up.
Ask your loved one what he needs—and don’t stress if those needs suddenly (or frequently) change. Ask specific questions, like:
- Should I visit today? If so, what time is best?
- Do you want company during your treatment?
- Would you like someone to sit with you one or two nights a week?
- Can I take you to dinner/a yoga class/for a massage?
- Do you want to go for a walk after dinner?
- Can I bring you dinner? If so, what sounds good?
Put those logistics skills to good use.
Use social media or a web-based app to keep everyone in the loop and updated. Organize a list of helpers who can take your loved one to doctor’s and treatment appointments, help clean the house, bring meals, take care of kids, throw in a load of laundry, run errands, or anything else she might need.
Keep supporting your loved one.
Very often, when people are dealing with a new cancer diagnosis and its initial treatments, they’re surrounded by people offering to help. However, your loved one will need support throughout the entire continuum. That’s where logistics also play a huge part—keeping everyone updated and informed and spreading out help and support among many people so no one caregiver feels overwhelmed and stressed.
Food sounds great, but treatments often result in nausea or vomiting that make eating very unappealing. Your loved one might appreciate books, music, magazines or puzzles, an Amazon gift card, or a gift certificate for a massage or float therapy. Consider asking several friends and family to chip in to hire a cleaning service for a few weeks or months.
Take care of yourself.
When you’re worried about and helping someone else who’s fighting cancer, it’s a challenge to remember to take time for yourself, especially if you’re one of your loved one’s main caregivers. However, it’s critical that you do so. You can’t predict the range of emotions you’ll experience: guilt, hope, hopelessness, sadness, worry, anxiety, depression, grief, anger, denial, loneliness. But your mind does need a break. Look for positives and allow yourself to laugh. Check out this resource from the National Cancer Institute for self-care ideas.
A cancer diagnosis—whether it’s breast, lung, prostate, liver or another cancer—changes everything. Everyone plunges into a new world of medical terms and treatment plans. The emotional (and other) support you provide to your loved one is as priceless and valuable as any treatment protocol.
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