When you hear someone close to you has cancer, you may feel completely powerless, and you likely are wondering what you can do, if anything. Don’t worry, as there are so many ways to be supportive. Here is what you can do to help someone battling cancer.
Remember That It’s About Them
Before you begin anything, you must keep this in mind: cancer is a topic people tend to shy away from or speak about only in hushed tones. Of course, it is normal to be uneasy with this subject, but you should internally address this before reaching out; your discomfort may make the person feel uncomfortable opening up to you. You want to make sure they know you are someone they can rely on for support and comfort. Cancer is not something you should or need to tiptoe around.
Once you have addressed any underlying discomfort, you will want to reach out to this person. You do not need to say anything specific just yet; all you must do is make your presence known. When you reach out, it shows the person that you know what’s going on and care about their well-being. This approach is more common amongst distant relatives and friends—make sure to ask the person who informed you if it is okay to reach out.
If the person directly tells you about their cancer, the best thing you can do is listen. In situations like this, we search for the perfect thing to say, but there is nothing you can say that will make everything better. People handle traumatic, life-altering news differently, and even if you know this person very well, how they react could diverge from what you expected.
Allow this person to lead the conversation. You may ask them how they are feeling or let them know you will do anything to help and generally make your sentiments known. Avoid any definitive statements just yet.
Follow Their Lead
As the person comes to terms with their diagnosis and ensuing treatment, they will take a stance on the situation. Perhaps they will want to be vocal and open about it. They might use the word “cancer” with an explicative in front of it, or they might prefer to be quieter and more reserved about everything. Whatever they choose, you will want to follow their lead regarding the emotional approach toward their diagnosis, treatment, management, etc.
Take Things Day by Day
Keep in mind that if the person you know battling cancer has an overall good attitude about everything, you shouldn’t expect them to be like that all the time. Allow them to express any emotions they want to; this reduces the pressure to act in a specific way. It would help if you talked to them about topics other than cancer and their battle—having a sense of normalcy is what they need most. Keep this in mind.
Offer Long-Distance Support
If you are far away from this person and want to help in any way you can, here is what you can do. Make sure to check in on them consistently. Consider setting up a specific time to call and check in periodically. While this person is going through treatment, they may not constantly update you, so this option makes it easier and lets them know you care.
Know What You’re Doing
You may want to consider enrolling yourself in first aid and CPR courses; this is what you can do to help someone battling cancer. Something like this is useful to someone battling cancer because, during treatment, anything can happen; they may go through a wide range of procedures resulting in a myriad of symptoms. Should you need to help them change a dressing, tend to a wound, etc., you will know how to do so in the most efficient way. No matter what may arise, having this information will help you immensely in assisting them.
Cook for Them
Depending on your closeness to the person, you may consider cooking them meals. Receiving a cancer diagnosis in and of itself is a psychologically draining situation. When they begin actual treatment, the emotional and physical exhaustion increases tenfold. Throughout treatment, the person will have little energy for much of anything, let alone providing themselves with sustenance. You can cook meals, freeze them for later, or set up a meal delivery service.
As stated, treatment takes a lot of energy out of a person, and if they struggle to provide themselves with meals, they are likely in need of help elsewhere. You may want to consider picking up some slack if they are comfortable with that. You can clean up around the house, offer to drive them to appointments, pick up any medications, or run more general errands.
Gift Them Sweets and Treats
If the person you know is going through chemo, you can provide them with things to make it all a little easier. Chemo is an incredibly intense medicine, and there can be a plethora of side effects, the most common among those being severe nausea. You can get them ginger chews or any candy that will help them get rid of any unpleasant tastes in their mouth.
Moreover, the person may run colder due to the chemo’s side effects, which notoriously freezing hospitals exacerbate. Buy them some fuzzy socks, hats, or a plush blanket. You can also purchase fun things to help pass the treatment time, like coloring books, magazines, or anything you know they would like.
Make a Care Package
Whether you are a long or short distance from this person, a care package is always welcome. You can certainly include things relating to cancer and their treatment, but make sure to include other specific things that you know they would love. Receiving a care package and opening it up provides anyone with excitement and happiness, brightening the situation. Moreover, adding in a touch of personalization will make them feel loved.
Just Be There
Sometimes, there will be no words and gifts that can make things easier throughout this battle. There will be dark days and, in these moments, the best thing you can do is be there. Even if you cannot relate, your presence provides such astounding support that you can rest assured they will feel the love and care without a spoken word.