Supporting a Friend or Family Member who has Cancer

Published on September 5, 2013

Aging With Grace

Supporting a Friend or Family Member who has Cancer

I believe we all have had at least one person in our lives  at one time or another that has been affected by cancer, whether it’s a family member, a friend or a coworker that has been diagnosed, cancer affects the lives of not only the person diagnosed, but the people around them as well.  It can be hard to know what to say or do, so today we are going to talk about how to be supportive to someone in your life that may have cancer.  Maine-ly Elder Care has developed a list of what you can do to prepare yourself and helpful tips on what you can do to be supportive. 

  • The first step is to prepare yourself and learn more about the cancer diagnosis beforehand, your friend or relative may not want to talk about it.  Also, it’s best to prepare yourself for the physical changes that may occur, such as weight changes, fatigue and hair loss.  It’s best not to comment on the physical changes, a good alternative is to say “it’s nice to see you” 

Here are some tips on how to be the best support for your friend or loved one:

  • Ask permission before visiting, giving advice or asking questions and make it okay for them to say no
  • Be humorous and fun, this is great to be able to talk about funny things and fun times, laughter can really be healing.
  • If you want to offer help, be sure to offer help with specific tasks, such as preparing a meal, taking care of children or the family pet. 
  • Follow through on your commitment to help
  • Try not to let your friend or relatives condition get in the way of your relationship. 

It’s hard to know what to say when someone you know and love has cancer here are some suggestions on what to say and what not to say:

Do say things like:

  • I care about you
  • I’m thinking about you
  • I’m praying for you
  • I’m here to listen if you feel like talking

Try to avoid saying things like:

  • Don’t worry
  • I’m sure you’ll be fine
  • How long do you have?
  • I don’t know how you manage

Continuing relationships after a cancer diagnosis is a great way to further the healing process.  Encouragement and support can be helpful to the person with cancer.  I hope these tips help in dealing with the difficult feelings and issues a cancer diagnosis brings. 

~ Denise Stevens, RN

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