Offering support to a loved one with cancer

A cancer diagnosis can turn the life of cancer sufferers and their loved ones upside down. There are ways that can be used to support a person you love who is affected by the disease and to help his/her well-being and quality of life.

Active support

A cancer diagnosis also involves a range of emotions that can paralyze the sufferer and greatly affect his/her loved ones. The immediate family is often affected by a wave of sadness, uncertainty, and helplessness. The impact is also sometimes felt by friends and colleagues. Extended family and friends play a significant role in accompanying and supporting the person affected by cancer.

Emotional support can be shown in various ways:

  • Listen to the sometimes negative emotions expressed by the person affected by cancer.
  • Try not to judge manifestations of sadness, anxiety, and mood swings.
  • Maintain the friendship or family connection with the affected person by calling or visiting them. Healing can take several months; so, the connection must not disintegrate over time.
  • Accept that the sufferer may not wish to express him/herself. However, he/she will appreciate an open mind and an attentive ear if the need is felt to confide in someone.

Practical support

Over and above the emotional aspect, which is a primary area of intervention, it is possible to offer support to a person affected by cancer in much more tangible forms. For example, you can:

  • Find out how the patient is doing.
  • Accompany him/her to medical appointments.
  • Write down essential elements given by the medical team to prevent information from being forgotten due to the emotional stress.

On a day-to-day basis, you can:

  • Help out with the affected person's children by accompanying them in their activities (swimming classes, homework, school outings, etc.) to promote his/her physical recovery.
  • Propose some leisure activities by adapting them to the person's physical condition and health.
  • Offer to run some errands (grocery store, pharmacy) or manual tasks.
  • Offer to prepare some meals.

However, it is important to respect the wishes of the affected person. He/she will want to feel free to accept or decline your offer for support. Even if this may seem difficult, it is important not to be tempted to take over the situation, unless the person clearly indicates that that is his/her wish.

Common errors.

At times, hasty offers of support can cause the opposite effect than was hoped for. This is called "negative support". Here are a few examples of attitudes to watch out for:

  • Preventing the affected person from expressing certain emotions such as fear or sadness. This approach is often intended to boost morale. Comments such as "you're a fighter" or "stay positive" are detrimental if they serve to silence the person's need to speak about what they are feeling.
  • Minimizing the gravity of the disease by asserting for instance that "Today, cancer is easier to treat" or that "others have survived it". Make sure your comments are situation- appropriate.
  • Formulating sentences that start with "If I were you...". You aren't that person!
  • Refusing to take into account the affected person's level of fatigue. Going for a walk in the woods could certainly do him/her good, but you must first respect the physical limitations imposed by the disease!

Fear of not doing the right thing mustn't deter you from offering your help to the affected person. You simply have to be able to adapt to the needs the person expresses.

Taking some time for yourself

Loved ones of the person affected by cancer must also stay attentive to their own psychological balance in order not to break down. Here are a few points to remember:

  • Be attentive to your own emotions. Accepting and expressing them will help you to release your emotions. Psychological help or participating in support groups may be advisable.
  • Set aside some respite or leisure time to momentarily escape from the context of the disease; you will return with renewed energy for the person you are lending support to.
  • Accept the fact that you cannot take charge of everything. A disease such as cancer comes with its share of surprises. Manage the situation whenever possible; the rest of the time, letting go and accepting the situation are more beneficial.

Supporting someone who has cancer can take on the appearance of an obstacle course that is better dealt with as a team. In this perspective, communication within the team is crucial in order to cross the finish line with a victory! Remember that you can also count on a team member that is very knowledgeable about health and medication—your pharmacist!

×

Send to a friend

Offering support to a loved one with cancer

A cancer diagnosis can turn the life of cancer sufferers and their loved ones upside down. There are ways that can be used to support a person you love who is affected by the disease and to help his/her well-being and quality of life.
From:
To:

Loading...