Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide — and the amount of cancer diagnoses keeps increasing. Statistics show the number of cancer diagnoses worldwide is going to double from 14 million to 21 million by 2030.
With statistics like this, chances are you know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps someone dear to you is battling the disease at this very moment, and you’re looking for ways to offer your support. You can do so in a variety of ways — from accompanying your loved one to their doctors’ appointments to simply listening when they could use an ear.
If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer, consider the following ways you can offer your support during this difficult time.
Take Care of Yourself
This may seem odd — and even a bit selfish — but it’s one of the most important things you can do when offering your support to a loved one who has cancer. It’s like when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendant asks you to put on your oxygen mask before assisting another. To be there for your loved one, you must take care of yourself, too.
Eat well, get regular exercise and don’t deprive yourself of adequate sleep. When you are at your best, you can be more present for those who need your support.
Another thing you can do to support your loved one who is battling cancer is educate yourself about the disease. The more you know about cancer — especially your loved one’s particular type of cancer — the better equipped you will be to lend support.
By educating yourself, not only are you showing interest in what your loved one is going through, you are better able to ask the right questions. A bit of research means you can be prepared to ask the doctor questions your loved one may not have thought to ask.
Seek Emotional Support
Of course, you will be available to lend emotional support any time your loved one may need it. You can do this by being present, listening intently, maintaining respect and saying, “I love you.” But it’s different than having someone to talk to who is in the same boat. Your loved one may need additional emotional support, either individual therapy or through a support group.
Helping your loved one find a peer group comprised of others who are battling cancer can be a transformative experience.
Give Cards and Gifts
Everyone loves to receive little mementos from those who are dear to them. It makes them feel warm and fuzzy and loved and cherished. How much more do those mementos mean for someone who must be in and out of the hospital? Such treasures will definitely brighten up your loved one’s day.
Maybe you’re shopping at the grocery store, and you see an object that reminds you of your loved one. Purchase it and surprise him or her with it. Have your kids make your loved one cards — they mean so much more than store-bought tokens.
Another small gesture is to send a simple text message letting your loved one know you’re thinking about them. Here’s a secret — make it funny. Between well-meaning friends, nurses and volunteers, they are likely consoled every moment of the day. Instead of reminding them of their difficultly, send them a silly gif or remind them of something dumb from their childhood.
Remind Them of Life Outside
Sometimes your loved one will feel better simply by hearing the sound of your voice or visiting with you for a couple of hours. When you show up, bring a book to read out loud to them or share some happy music. It can feel like life stops inside the four walls of a hospital room, and that’s discouraging.
Outside of the hospital, maintain a sense of normalcy. Don’t focus completely on your loved one’s disease. Talk about other things that are going on in both of your lives. On the other hand, if they want to talk about their cancer and what they’re going through, simply listen.
Run Errands and Do Chores
During those times when your loved one is going through chemotherapy or radiation treatment, they’re not going to feel up to doing much of anything. If you feel comfortable doing so, pitch in where you see they need help. Throw in the laundry or run the dishwasher. No one wants to feel like they are asking for help all the time — so don’t make them, just do it.
If you don’t feel like you can jump into their chores, be up front and ask what you can help with. Maybe they will need you to go grocery shopping for them, cook a few meals or help with the kids. Whatever it is they need, let your loved one know you are there to help.
Stay in Touch With Caregivers
It is most likely you are not your loved one’s only caregiver during this difficult time. They probably have other family, friends, doctors and therapists who are lending support. As one of their supporters, it is important to keep in touch with your loved one’s other caregivers. This way, you can remain on the same page and put together a plan to maintain continued support.
These are just a few ways you can be there for your loved one while they are going through cancer. Whether your loved one has been given a terminal diagnosis or is expecting to recovery, cancer takes an emotional toll as well as a physical one. Your dedication will go a long way for them.