The Best Way To Support Someone With Cancer
Having a loved one diagnosed with cancer can be a big hit in the gut for anyone. You may feel like it’s now your duty to be that person’s support system and rock as they go through this challenging time. Kudos to you for deciding to be someone’s shoulder to lean on; it can be empowering to them to know that someone has their back through it all. However, fighting cancer is draining, and a lot of the treatments to combat it are tough on the body. It’s important that you’re there to comfort and soothe your loved one without adding to their stress.
Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind when it comes to supporting someone with cancer.
Do respect their boundaries and ask for permission. Honor everyone’s journey; everyone is different. Some people want a lot of support, and some people are perfectly okay with a card and a text message. Before you visit, give advice, or ask questions, ask your loved one if it’s okay for you to do so. If someone says they’re good, respect their need for space and privacy, and if they ask for help, it’s okay to check in, but try not to take over.
Do bring up people who have survived to keep people encouraged. Crazy statistics and unreliable information are always floating around the internet, and it can be very easy for someone to research everything about their specific type of cancer and get discouraged. Sometimes doctor’s appointments aren’t any help either because doctors are obligated to tell the whole truth, no matter how brutal it may be. Help your loved one out by keeping them positive and encouraged with real success stories.
Do ask how you can help. Again, cancer is an exhausting, uphill battle. Many people find themselves struggling to keep up with daily tasks and chores. Lend a helping hand to your friend with some of these tasks or, if your time is limited, give a gift that can help them along their journey. Some suggestions include positive cards, a gift card for food, a warm, soft blanket, an uplifting text message, accompanying them to their chemo appointments, helping their kids get to school, making dinner, or helping with household chores. Anything that helps take the stress off of your loved one so they can continue to rest and recover is perfect and welcomed.
Do allow them to express sadness. A cancer diagnosis comes with a barrage of emotions. Many times, people are confused and in a state of shock. As a friend or family member, allow them to feel these emotions. Although they are “negative” emotions, it is not a negative thing to feel such emotions. In fact, sitting with them and processing them is what will allow your loved one to move on and gain the strength they need to fight and heal. Support them through these feelings and express empathy as much as possible.
Don’t bring up people who have died, whether they were a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance. In the same vein, don’t mention someone’s recurrence. The point of being there is to help support your loved one and uplift them. Trust me, they’re terrified enough and have probably read tons of articles they wish they hadn’t. Be a source of positivity and encouragement.
Don’t ask what stage of cancer someone has. This is a very personal and invasive question to ask someone who is deep in the throes of accepting what they’ve just been told by their doctors. Instead of asking, simply be there for them and allow them to provide the information they feel comfortable enough to share.
Don’t ask if they’re in remission. Talks of remission or recurrence are often touchy subjects and can be a cause of great anxiety and stress. For example, if you ask someone if they’re in remission and they’re not, they could end up feeling terrible, like their treatment isn’t working or is taking too long. Again, your job is to support them and offer positivity and encouragement. Allow the person to share the information they’d like and don’t pry for information they’d rather keep private.
Don’t Give flowers as “get well” gift, if the person is undergoing treatment and is sensitive to smells. Cards, blankets, hand-made trinkets, or other personal items are better “get well” options that will definitely be appreciated.
Don’t be forceful when giving hugs. While gentle hugs are a great way to show your love and support, be mindful of the fact that people may have just had surgery and, therefore, are a bit sore. There’s no need to avoid hugs altogether, but big bear hugs can probably cause more harm than good.
What are some of your favorite ways to show support for a loved one battling an illness?