10 Ways to Support Someone with Cancer
When a family member or friend is diagnosed with cancer, you may feel totally overwhelmed as to what to say or do or help. Here are a few ways you can support a loved one with cancer:
1. Just be there to listen
Your loved one may or may not want to talk about what they’re going through, or they might want to talk about other things in their life. Whatever they want to discuss, make it a habit to truly listen. Ask questions to show you care but let your friend or loved one lead the conversation.
2. Offer specifically how you can help
So many times we can offer help to loved ones in need, but they don’t accept because they don’t want to impose and ask for assistance in specific ways. Instead of giving a general offer of help, offer how you can help instead. Whether it’s with bringing over dinner, caring for pets, relieving caregivers, picking up the kids, or cleaning the house.
3. Call to talk
When someone is sick, dealing with email, social media, and in-person visitors can be draining and overwhelming. A phone call or video phone call is often an easy and unobtrusive way to stay in touch. Just a few minutes can offer quick healing support that your loved one may need to boost their day without adding the stress of managing company or social media.
4. Send them mail
In an age of digital communication, a handwritten card or note is a nostalgic gesture that can make your loved one feel special. It’s also something they can physically place in their room or on a shelf as a reminder of how much you care.
5. Drop off a favorite dish
Enjoying our favorite foods can make anyone’s day a little bit better. Cook a dish or dessert or bring over takeout from a restaurant your loved one enjoys. It’s always a good idea to ask first what they’re able to eat on treatment, as their appetite may be off. This can also change over time during treatments, so it’s a good idea to ask again the next time you want to bring over food.
6. Find a way to make them laugh
Laughter really is good medicine. Research says it can even promote healing as well as reduce anxiety and stress. It can also help your loved one forget about their illness in the moment. Try telling jokes, reminiscing over funny shared memories, or watching a sitcom or movie together.
7. Go with them to treatment
It can be lonely and depressing to go to chemo treatments alone. Offer to join them and bring along cards or games to play. You could also bring a book to read them or just sit quietly and hold their hand.
8. Book a future outing
Knowing you have something to look forward to can provide a good dose of hope. Plan a special event for when they’re feeling better whether it’s to attend a concert, go to the theater, or a take road trip to a bucket list place.
9. Remember to offer support ongoing
When someone is first diagnosed with cancer, people can jump in to assist but soon fade away when the sickness and medical care goes on for months—or even years. However, your loved one still needs your support even when they turn a corner and are on the road to recovery. Make it a regular ritual to be there for them in different ways.
10. Let them know you care about them and love them
Cancer can make someone feel that they are a burden to their friends and family. It is important to reinforce your love for them and that helping them is also helping you. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings, sometimes it’s all people need to hear.
With all these tips in mind, the bottom line is this: Just be there. Let your loved one know that you’re beside them throughout their cancer journey. It’s also good to understand that even the smallest gesture of support can make the biggest difference to a cancer patient.