When cancer enters the life of someone you care about, it’s natural to want to offer encouragement and assistance. While experts agree that a strong support system is critical to a cancer patient’s journey, they also understand that it may be difficult to know exactly what to say or do. Here are five ways to help a loved one who is living with cancer.
- Acknowledge what’s happening. Sometimes when you discover that a friend or family member has been diagnosed with cancer, you may feel uncomfortable about addressing the situation for fear of upsetting him or her. But ignoring things may make your loved one feel even more upset and isolated. Instead, simply say: “I hear you’ve had some bad news. I’m sorry.”
- Lend a hand. Fighting cancer can be exhausting. Doctors’ visits and treatments are added on top of the individual’s routine responsibilities. Offer to help by driving the patient to an appointment, doing a load of laundry or making dinner. Whatever you do, don’t wait to be asked, and make sure to follow through.
- Privacy, please. Cancer patients sometimes feel that their lives have suddenly become open books. Help your friend or family member reclaim his or her privacy by not talking about their condition or treatment with others. Make sure to get permission before you share information. When in doubt, be discreet.
- Choose your words wisely. Words have the power to heal, but some words can hurt. Even the most well-meaning people can make statements that may be misunderstood. In particular, it’s important not to speculate about how or why your friend got cancer. Instead, be sensitive and take cues from your loved one regarding his or her feelings.
- Listen. The single most important thing you can do is listen. Be open and receptive to your loved one’s need to talk about what he or she is experiencing, feeling or thinking – no matter how big or small the topic of conversation.