For patients battling cancer, a good support system is priceless. Cancer treatment can be a journey, but support from family and friends can help a cancer patient navigate this rocky road.
Distancing yourself from someone with cancer only perpetuates the isolation many cancer patients experience. In fact, support from family and friends is associated with an individual’s chances of survival. In one large-scale study, women with breast cancer who could name 10 friends were four times more likely to survive their illness than women who could not.
If you have a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with cancer, here are some ways you can help.
Maintain regular contact. Communication is key. Ask your friend or loved one how they’re managing and what they need.
Include them in social activities. Invite them to participate in social events and activities. Cancer doesn’t eliminate a person’s need for social interaction. Let them be the one to decide if they’re feeling up to it.
Help with medical equipment and expenses. There's no doubt that cancer treatment is costly. Organize a fundraiser or raffle to help raise money to cover treatment costs.
Send a meal. Arrange a schedule for delivery of nutritious prepared meals or freezer meals they can store for a time when they aren’t feeling up to cooking.
Help with childcare. Whether you offer to babysit or simply arrange to drop off and pick up their children from school, knowing their child is cared for can be a major stress reliever for cancer patients.
Offer a ride to and from appointments. Cancer treatment is physically exhausting. Offer a ride to and from treatment appointments to reduce the burden of transportation.
Coordinate visits and sending cards, flowers or gifts. Arranging group visits can help eliminate a constant flow of company when your loved one isn’t feeling well.
Celebrate the good days. Check with your loved one first, but if they agree, plan a party when treatment is finished or when they reach a milestone post-treatment anniversary.
Simply listen. Let your loved one talk about his or her experiences and feelings, and resist the urge to give answers or advice. Simply listening and being a compassionate presence has the power to heal.
Rather than saying “let me know if you need anything,” offer to help in one of these specific ways or ask your loved one exactly what they need. Nobody wants to be a burden, but that often means cancer patients don’t ask for the help they need.
No act of kindness is too small. The support you offer your loved one with cancer may be just what he or she needs to make it through this difficult time.