If a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, you may be struggling to be an adequate support system for that person. Supporting a loved one through cancer treatment can seem daunting if you don’t know how to first approach the situation. Keep in mind that this person needs you and though it will be difficult at times, being that person’s support during likely the hardest battle of their life will make all the difference during their treatment. Below are five ways you can support your loved one through cancer treatment.
Be a Good Listener
Listening is one of the most important and also most difficult methods of support. Sometimes your loved one will just want a sounding board or to vent, so avoid being overly critical or too much of a “cheerleader” if your loved one really just wants you to listen. Your ability to sit with your loved one as they share their innermost feelings is probably one of the most important support gifts you can provide.
One of the best things you can do is educate yourself on your loved one’s cancer and proposed treatment plan. By understanding at least at a fundamental level what he or she is experiencing, you will be better equipped to give support and advice when necessary. Check out cancer patient resources or join support groups for family members or friends of people with cancer, so you can learn more about how to approach being their support system from others who understand what you’re going through.
Avoid Unsolicited Advice
Oftentimes, after researching and speaking with doctors or medical professionals, you may want to share your thoughts and advice to your loved one about his or her cancer or treatment, however, it’s best to keep advice to yourself unless asked. While sharing information is helpful, saying things like “you should do this” or “I would’ve done that” isn’t particularly helpful or welcoming for a person with cancer who is already extremely overwhelmed and probably in a good deal of pain. If your advice is warranted and constructive, share it, but be mindful of tone.
Cancer treatment can last a long time. Even when treatment is over, it doesn’t mean the experience has fully ended for your loved one. Though you may have enough things going on in your life, try your best to stay connected with your loved one before, during, and after their diagnosis. They need you now more than ever. Even a quick text saying you’re thinking about them or asking them if they need anything can be extremely uplifting for someone with cancer.
Keep Things Normal
Rather than trying to do tasks for your loved one, or be overly helpful or providing, just try and keep things normal. The added attention can feel suffocating for someone with cancer, who really just wants to feel normal in the midst of a chaotic and trying experience. Try and keep the conversation lighthearted unless the person wants to talk about their cancer, and make sure to try and do things that you two would’ve normally done together before the cancer.
Being the support system for a loved one with cancer can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can’t ever find the right words to say, just know that being there and loving them through this scary time is enough.