Supporting a Loved One with Cancer | Be There with Heart and Hand

Having a loved one face cancer is something that no one can truly prepare for. Unless we have faced this struggle ourselves, it can be impossible to understand what they are going through. However, there is plenty that you can do to support them as they go through treatment.

Emotional Support

Being diagnosed with cancer can be a grievous blow. Your loved one may be fearful of the future, and the flurry of emotions can be overwhelming. Alleviating some of their stress can contribute positively to their recovery. Be there for them as much as you can. Create a positive environment by directing their attention to things that give them happiness. Still, remind them that they can be open with you and that you are there for them. For some, it can be hard to be vulnerable and sad in front of a loved one. However, it is not healthy to internalize this. Remember that even hearing the voice of a loved one can be deeply reassuring. Offer hugs and a hand to hold as much as you can. Listen to their concerns and insecurities. Avoid making comparisons to others, as this may not be as helpful as some think. Instead, when you do contribute to the conversation, keep the focus on your loved one and their needs.

Practical Support

 There are many ways you can provide practical help. Treatment can impact all aspects of life, so ask your loved one what errands and chores you can do for them. Do encourage them to stay active, however, as this can aid recovery. Take them on walks through their neighborhood, even when they may not feel like it, or at least motivate them to move through their home. As your loved one goes through treatment, they may require specific physical assistance. Chemotherapy, for example, can cause dry skin to turn into blisters. It can also damage nails and make them brittle. To counter these symptoms, you might help them to apply lotion. When around your loved one, always remember to use hand sanitizer, as they will be vulnerable to germs.


 This can be as crucial as any support you provide. Knowing what to expect can be a valuable guide both for your loved one and yourself. Search online for information about the disease, and ask questions of your loved one’s cancer team. Equally, look into painkiller usage, and familiarize yourself with the symptoms of opioid addiction. This can have devastating consequences, but, with knowledge of addiction, both you and your loved one can be vigilant against it. Through research, you can become a focal point for friends and other loved ones in the learning process. For instance, creating a central account on Facebook or Twitter might centralize information about what your loved one is going through. This can allay some worries, or at least clarify any uncertainties that could exacerbate stress.


 This is a stressful time, and the gravity of facing cancer cannot, and should not, be ignored. However, it is still important not to let it take hold of your loved one’s life. While you can do much to reduce their load, encourage your loved one to keep up with as many routines as they feel able to. These can be simple tasks, like showering, or they might be chores that are not overly taxing. Avoid badgering them, as this could be counterproductive. Distraction is also beneficial. Talk to them about your day-to-day life, no matter how mundane it might seem to you. Watch television together or have brunch at their favorite cafe. Plan especially for days following treatment, as these can be the most difficult, and try to arrange visits from friends and family when your loved one is feeling up to it.

Be there for your loved one. Listen to their worries, offer them a helping hand, and let them be vulnerable with you. Encourage them stick with their routines as much as possible, remind them that cancer does not define them, and give them the necessary support to keep moving forward.

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l_rosetti@thebereaved.orgThe Bereaved

Posted in For Families.


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