When a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, everyone in a family is affected to some extent. What may be as difficult as the diagnosis itself, is wondering how to help. Everyone processes the difficult news differently and while one person with cancer will reach out for help right away, another may request some time alone. If you have a loved one who is battling cancer, here are some ways to show your support:

Ask What You Can Do

If you are unsure how you can help, simply ask your loved one how you can be of assistance. If he or she isn’t sure or is having troubles delegating tasks among the family members, offer suggestions or give him or her time. As tempting and well-intentioned as it may be, avoid taking over all daily duties, whether cleaning house, making meals, or personal care, without talking with your loved one first. Unless he or she requests that you or other family members take complete control of the household duties, partaking in everyday chores may help keep a feeling of “normalcy”. The best thing you can do is ask and communicate often.

Respect a Request for Space

The news of cancer may affect everyone differently. While it is important to come together as a family and offer support any way that you can, it’s also essential to respect personal space and requests to spend some time alone. Try to remember that everyone is trying to cope in his or her own way and the process may take longer for one than another.

Be Available

Although respecting space is important, it’s even more important to be available. Even if your assistance isn’t needed right away, there’s a good chance that your loved one will need your help at some point in his or her journey with cancer. By ensuring your availability from the beginning, you are showing unconditional support. Rather than always trying to find the “right” things to say or do, just be present all the time.

Help Your Loved One Find the Best Treatment

While there are many advances in the treatment of cancer, finding the best treatment can be a process. Offer to accompany your loved one to an appointment as a second set of eyes and ears, as the amount of information can be overwhelming. Whether you offer to research the latest cancer treatment drug or encourage your loved one to seek a second opinion, helping him or her find the best treatment option should be one of your top priorities.

Practice Self-Care

Taking care of a loved one and putting all of your physical and mental energy into helping out can take its toll. By taking some time to care for yourself, such as joining a support grouptaking some personal time, or even taking a brief walk around the block, will make you more supportive in the long run. Many people struggle with guilt, feeling as though they don’t have the right to fun or alone time, but it’s essential, particularly if you are taking an active role in your loved one’s care.