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The do’s and don’ts of offering cancer support to someone you love

The do’s and don’ts of offering cancer support to someone you love

Each year in the U.S., nearly 2 million people are diagnosed with some type of cancer. If a friend or family member of yours is part of that number and undergoing cancer treatment, the cancer support you provide can be a welcome part of the healing process.

When encouraging a friend through their cancer experience, though, it can be challenging to know what to do and say. Our LCMC Health team shares some tips about offering cancer support below.

5 tips for providing meaningful cancer support

Family and friends can play a key role in helping those with cancer cope with their diagnosis and their treatment. If you are afraid that you’ll make a misstep when offering your emotional support, these tips can point you in the right direction:

1. Use your words wisely.

When you’re talking with a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer, think before you speak. Avoid shoulda/coulda/wouldas and overly general statements.

Instead, remain positive and steady, stay focused on the present and future, and offer specific ways you can provide help and support.

Be thoughtful about saying things that might seem helpful but may not be from the perspective of a cancer patient, such as references to being “brave” or “strong.”

2. Consider the person’s full spectrum of needs

While your loved one’s physical needs will be cared for by a healthcare team, you can help care for their emotional, mental, social and everyday needs.

Spend time together as your loved one is able, encourage them to stay physically active and practice self-care, and provide assistance as needed with tasks, such as grocery shopping or babysitting. Listening and being open to conversation about anything and everything—it can be pretty refreshing to focus on something other than cancer for a while.

3. Help find resources

Your loved one’s care team probably includes a cancer navigator. Social workers at every LCMC Health facility offer invaluable assistance, helping to connect patients and their family members with the resources they need, both within the hospital and beyond. This can include support groups with other cancer survivors.

Even with this help, it can be a bit overwhelming! Offer your services to help navigate through all the support. Mental health issues such as anxiety or depression are common during cancer treatment, so help your loved one seek care for those needs, too.

4. Forget about cancer on occasion

Yes, you read that right! Sometimes, forgetting about a cancer diagnosis altogether is beneficial.

As much as possible, treat your friend or family member the same way you did before the diagnosis. Do the things you always enjoy, watch the shows you love, share good meals and take part in your usual book club.

Carve out time to laugh together. So much of a cancer journey is serious that it can be a relief to simply laugh out loud at a meme or a funny story.

5. Sort through your own feelings

To provide emotional support during cancer treatment, you’ll need to be at the top of your game. Take some time right after the diagnosis to learn all you can about the type of cancer and its treatment.

Knowing what’s ahead regarding treatment and how it will affect your friend or family member will help you adjust your thoughts and expectations. It will also allow you to work through how you’ll handle any physical changes in your loved one before they happen.

You’ll have different emotions throughout the cancer journey, but working through these things on the front end can help you provide support along the way.

When you or a loved one is facing cancer, we’re here to help you at every step of your journey. Learn more about cancer care at LCMC Health.