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Five ways to support a friend or loved one with cancer

Published in Heart & Vascular, For the Health of It Author: Teri Larson-Johnson, PA-C

Physician Assistant, Radiation Oncology Clinic
Coborn Cancer Center

CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center

A cancer diagnosis is often overwhelming. Providing support to those with cancer can help them find hope, keep a positive outlook and maintain quality of life. Consider these practical tips and tangible ways to support those with cancer.

  1. Provide a listening ear. Ask questions, listen without judgment and support their feelings. Be flexible and allow your friend to express their sadness, fears, disappointments, struggles and discomforts, as well as their goals, hopes, dreams and victories. Don’t assume that your loved one has lost interest in prior hobbies and interests. It may be a welcome distraction to discuss sports, gardening or traveling.
  2. Send notes, texts or emails with encouragement. The cancer journey can be long and arduous. Reminding your loved one that you are thinking and praying for them can help lessen the isolation they may feel. Remembering and acknowledging milestones in their treatment may also be encouraging. Also, offering to read emails or letters they have received.
  3. Run errands or complete tasks. Ask your friend, or their caregiver, for specific needs you can help with. Lawn care, housecleaning, picking up lunch, child care, dropping off items at the post office or library, getting an oil change and buying groceries are a just few ideas.
  4. Help the caregiver. Giving cancer support and respite to the caregiver also helps. Plan to visit your loved one during a time that allows the caregiver to run errands or have time for respite and self-care. Offer to drive them to appointments or support group meetings.
  5. Give the gift of your presence. Offering to just sit with your friend while waiting for an appointment or treatment session may be a welcomed gift. Laugh together. Because of a change in their energy level or health, you also could ask if they’d like company to watch a movie at home, have a book read to them or go for a walk.