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How to Support Someone Diagnosed with Cancer?

Anuya Waghmare Jan 2, 2019
Supporting someone who is diagnosed or living with cancer can be an uphill task. Many people want to lend a helping hand during these difficult times; however, they are unaware how they should go about it. Read for some ways to show your care and extend your support.
The reason why a seesaw was made for two people is that when you go down, there would always be someone there to lift you up again.
― Ash Sweeney
A person diagnosed with cancer will go through a plethora of emotions. A horde of negative feelings, including anxiety, depression, and fear are experienced. As a well-wisher, you are unable to understand the emotional and physical turmoil of the person with cancer.
You are at a loss of words and scared that you may offend or hurt the sentiments of the person or his family members. However, be concerned to reach out and show that you care.

For a cancer patient, support from loved ones, friends, or even acquaintances is very important. Here are a few tips that will help you support someone with this dreadful disease.
Note ― It should be noted that the usage of male pronouns is only for convenience of reading.

Prepare Yourself First

Extending your support is important; however, you yourself have to be strong to begin with. The first thing is to compose your thoughts and feelings.
You need to prepare yourself by facing your own fears and dealing with your own emotional upheaval. Once you have accepted and faced your fears, only then you will be able to lend a helping hand to someone with cancer.


Every person's experience with cancer will be unique. Being a patient listener to whatever he has to say will help him the most. Talking about his fears, feelings, and even death may make you uncomfortable; however, by expressing emotions, he will feel comforted.
These thoughts have probably been troubling him a lot and giving him many sleepless nights. After listening to his thoughts, you will get to know many ways in which you can be of help. Avoid making banal comments and comparisons which are bound to hurt the sentiments and your relationship with the affected person.

Acknowledgement of Feelings

Understanding and patience is what you will need the most when dealing with your loved one who is diagnosed with cancer. This is just the beginning, and the chemotherapy sessions and radiation treatments will take their toll on the physical and emotional well-being of the person as well as his family.
Patience and a shoulder to cry on will work wonders as an excellent way of support during these tough times. Acknowledge his feelings, and if you are at a loss of words or feel afraid about losing your loved one, it is okay to say so. Sharing fears and insecurities is one of the best ways to handle the situation.

Don't Change Your Attitude

It's human nature that whenever someone we know is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, we tend to distance ourselves from them. It is probably because of the fear of death and insecurity.
Remember that the person needs your support now. Don't change your behavior towards him. Try to be normal and supportive. Don't let the person feel isolated and alone. A warm hug, holding of hands, or a reassuring pat on the back will be appreciated and needed. Be yourself, and don't let these unfortunate turn of events change your attitude towards someone.

Help with Chores

Helping with daily chores or offering practical help is one of the most considerate ways of lending a helping hand.
» You can cook a meal for the family. You can also help by cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, taking care of the garden, collecting groceries and other accessories, washing and ironing clothes, or looking after pets.
» You can offer to take care of the kids. This will give him some privacy. He/she can spend some quality time with his/her spouse. You can also arrange a date.

» If that someone is well enough to go out of the house, you can plan a small get-together or an outing. He will be happy being with friends, and humor and some fun work wonders to ease the pain.

Small Gestures Make a Difference

Cancer treatment is exhaustive and tiring. Understand this, and let the person enjoy as much rest as possible. In order to bring some change in the routine, you can spring a surprise with some thoughtful gifts which will lift his spirits.
» If he is feeling up to it, you can gift him some good books, magazines, or puzzle books to read and keep him engaged. Give inspirational song CDs or a compilation of his favorite songs. You could gift MP3 players too.
» Bring some movies, and watch them together or take him out for lunch. Go for a walk to the park or for a long drive.
» Send flowers, cards, notes, etc., to show your concern, and keep the person motivated. Remember birthdays, anniversaries, and dates that mean a lot to the person. You can give some pleasant surprises to him on these days.
Although these are small ways of expressing concern, they go a long way in extending your support and help.

Financial Help

Cancer treatment is often expensive and drills a huge hole in the financial resources. You can help by paying some bills or buying stamps for him. You can organize a fundraiser.
Research and contact a financial planner or help with any insurance issues that may come up. Relieving some of the financial stress will ease a lot of his burden.

Be Accommodating During Treatment Sessions

The fight with cancer is a difficult and strenuous battle. The treatment sessions are often very exhaustive, tiring, and painful. As a supporter, you need to bear in mind when to give space, so that he can rest. It is best to avoid phone calls, visits, and any unnecessary disturbances during these times.
Please let him take as much time to recuperate and recover after a chemotherapy session. Do not pressurize the person at such times. Give him the much-needed space.

Other Ways to Help

» Offer to take your loved one to the doctor for appointments. Be with him, and patiently hear what the doctor says. Research about the illness, and ask questions.
» Pick up medications or reports. Help him organize these reports and bills, so that he doesn't have to worry about something being misplaced.
» Help the cancer patient reach out to others who are going through the same situation. A different level of compassion and understanding is gained by connecting with people who have experienced and faced this challenge in life.
Help him be a part of a support group, or contact cancer activists to help him. This should only be done if the patient is willing to participate in these activities.
Arrange the timings and schedules amidst your friends, family members, and other supporters. Commit only if you are able to fulfill your promise. The person will be entirely dependent on you. Do not take the responsibility if you have other priorities. You can show your care and concern through some other means.

Do Not Ignore Yourself

Eating healthy and taking care of yourself is equally important. Taking rest, relaxing, exercising, and finding ways to ease your stress and tension will help you take better care of the person with cancer.
Caring for a person with chronic diseases is draining and sometimes takes a toll on the supporters as well. Hence, it is very critical for a supporter to take care of himself and remain fit, healthy, and strong at all times.
Caring for a patient diagnosed with cancer can be a repetitive and exhaustive process. It takes a long time, and you should be prepared for the changes in his moods, appearance, and behavior. Feelings of resentment, bitterness, guilt, and other negative emotions should never be allowed to take you down or affect you in any way.
This may do more harm than good, even after the crisis is over. Remember that giving up your own desires or needs won't help anyone. Take time once in a while to pamper yourself and indulge in any activity that de-stresses and rejuvenates you.
Care and support are needed in tough time, and any gesture―whether big or small―will be appreciated. Whatever you plan to, listen to your heart and reach out to someone you know who is diagnosed with cancer. Patience, understanding, strength, and most importantly, being there for the person through his ups and downs will help him sail through rough waters.