Being diagnosed with cancer is devastating on so many levels, yet it is something that around half the population will have to deal with at some point. Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid developing the disease yourself, there’s every chance that one of your loved ones will be touched by cancer at some stage, and they’ll undoubtedly need your support so Supporting a Loved One is essential.
It’s not easy to support someone through a cancer diagnosis, and it’s very possible that you might say or do the wrong thing, even if you don’t mean to. Every cancer patient is different and their support needs will be unique to them, but there are a handful of things you can do as a basic foundation.
If you’ve recently found out a friend or family member has cancer and you’re looking at how you can best be there for them or to Supporting a Loved One, keep reading.
- Don’t push them
The first thing to note is that you shouldn’t push them. What this means is that unless your loved one brings up the diagnosis voluntarily, it might be best to refrain talking about it. This isn’t to say that you can’t acknowledge it, but many cancer patients may feel as if they’re being pushed into talking about their health or emotions when they’re not actually ready to think about it just yet.
Go at their pace, let them set the tone, and make sure you follow their lead.
- Make plans as normal
One of the biggest mistakes people make when dealing with a person with cancer is stopping inviting them to things. A cancer patient won’t want to be defined by their diagnosis, and they certainly won’t want to let it get in the way of doing normal things like going on vacation or out for a meal.
You’ll need to take their health into account, but as a general rule of thumb, keep making plans like you normally would. Don’t tiptoe around the subject or let it dictate what you do – try and keep things as normal as possible. This normality might be the only thing getting them through.
- Offer to help with general chores
Cancer treatment can take its toll on a person’s general health. For example, chemotherapy can make patients feel very nauseas and lethargic, and proton beam therapy can make them feel extremely fatigued. Whilst you should go at the pace of the patient and not force them into anything or treat them any differently, there’s nothing wrong with offering to assist with chores if they find themselves feeling weak. Simply float the idea and be prepared to act if necessary, but don’t be offended if they say no.
- Do your own research
It’s a good idea to do your own research into the type of cancer your loved one has and what kind of treatment they’re undertaking. They might not want to dive into the details of their diagnosis or their treatment outside of a clinical setting, meaning you might feel a bit in the dark about what they’re going through.
Rather than pressing for details, it’s worth doing your own research. There are lots of resources out there that have accurate information about cancer and cancer treatment which should give you a better understanding.
- Process your own emotions first
Our final tip is to Supporting a Loved One is to process your own emotions first. Cancer doesn’t affect the patient; it has a wider effect on their loved ones which can be immeasurable. The patient themselves will be going through a lot, both physically and mentally, so it’s important that you process your emotions first before tending to them. The last thing they need is to be overwhelmed with other people’s fears and scaredness, so make sure you take appropriate time to go through the motions before approaching them.
Doing so will stand you in far better stead to support them when they need it.