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How to Be Supportive to a Friend or Loved One That Has Cancer
October 04, 2013

How to Be Supportive to a Friend or Loved One That Has Cancer

Be There When They Need You

Whether it is your mother, your wife or your best friend, one of the most important ways to be supportive is to be there in person. As your wife steps out of the shower and realizes her hair is falling out from chemo treatment, be there with a hug. If your son is facing a doctor's appointment that will provide results, offer to be there. Often times, it is important just to show your loved ones how much you care. Call after the appointment to check in on them. Find the time in your busy day to stop by. By making these types of decisions, you show the cancer-fighter you are going through this with them, one step at a time.

Be Ready for the Emotional Rollercoaster

Your loved one is fighting the fight of their life. It will inspire moments of pure hate towards the cancer, the medications, or their genetics. It may bring on moments of deep sadness. Some go from being scared to being excited about an appointment within a matter of minutes. It is essential for caregivers to be supportive to loved ones through it all.

It is also important to know there is no wrong or right way to deal with these emotions. Sometimes, anger is the best tool to fight against cancer. In other cases, people are quiet and withdrawn. Allow your loved one to lead the way. When he or she needs help, be there. Encourage conversations and simply spend time together. Most importantly, never tell a cancer-fighter that what they are feeling is wrong. In other words, they have to win this battle through the method that is right for their needs.

Be Educated

Another step caregivers can take is to be educated. Consider the following:

  • Understand the process, the drugs, and the overall treatment plan. If your loved one wants you there to take it in, it is often because he or she wants you to help them through it.
  • Keep focused on the steps and opportunities ahead. For example, stay focused on research and studies occurring. Help a loved one to be ready to participate if there is a study he or she may qualify for.
  • If this is your spouse, be sure to be the voice for your wife or husband. Sometimes, asking the questions he or she has helps tremendously. For example, if your husband tells you a new pain has developed and doesn't tell the doctor, communicate that information to the doctor. If your wife is too afraid to ask about results from a key test, ask for them. Become the voice of information and an advocate.

Cancer is an ever-changing diagnosis. There are new drugs, new treatment options, and new science developed for it all the time. By staying educated, both you and the patient can ensure the benefits of those studies become realistic opportunities.

Don't Focus on Just Cancer

People have lives and living that life is still important even when cancer is in the picture. If the doctor allows it, take that trip you were both planning to take. Keep the same routine each day if it feels right. Encourage your son, daughter, or other family members to visit more often and not to talk about the cancer, but to interact.

Help your cancer-fighter get a wig so he or she doesn't feel embarrassed while shopping or dining out. Alternatively, for those who want to stare cancer in the face, support your loved one if he or she decides to shave their head. Being together can help to create that solidarity that so many individuals need desperately during this time.

This is a battle, but it is one that can be one in many instances. As a caregiver, finding the right way to support a family member or friend is challenging. However, by simply being there, even if you do not know what to say or what to do, you are making a big difference in your loved one's life. That is going to make the biggest impact in this process.

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