Providing Helpful Assistance to Cancer Patients

While learning that a family member or a friend has cancer is often overwhelming, there are several ways to help without offending the patient by becoming overly involved in his or her diagnosis. From providing emotional support and active, in-home assistance to offering advice or resources at the patient’s request, making oneself available is key when a loved one is facing a battle with cancer.

Although offering emotional support to recently diagnosed cancer patients can be tricky business, the sentiment is almost universally welcome. Depending on the personality of the individual with cancer, support may range from holding his or her hand when it all becomes too much to deal with to spending time together talking about family, mutual friends, work and anything but cancer; the idea is to simply be available to provide something that he or she needs, regardless of whether it involves discussing the disease or pretending it doesn’t exist for a few hours.

Cancer treatment takes a lot of energy and robs patients of their ability to manage their lives normally; when this happens, the best support may come in the form of cooking a meal for the patient’s family, tidying his or her home or even taking the kids for a couple of days at a time. The type of assistance does not matter as long as it is useful and welcome.

A common complaint from cancer patients describes well-meaning friends who go overboard when it comes to advising the patient on treatment, his or her prognosis or even on life after cancer. Even health professionals are guilty of talking only about cancer after learning of the diagnosis; by sharing information only when asked, the patient will not feel bombarded with constant conversations about the disease. Finally, those who want to provide something tangible to a recently diagnosed friend without overwhelming them may want to consider putting together a gift basket. Uplifting books for cancer patients, favorite movies, a selection of teas or coffees and other items that the individual will welcome come together nicely to create a gift that is not entirely focused on the disease.

The most important part of supporting a loved one with cancer is focusing on his or her needs. Offering only assistance that is welcome will provide a cancer patient with a well-deserved break from the constant focus on his or her illness.

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