How To Be Supportive To Someone With Cancer

February 2, 2022

When one of our loved ones receives a cancer diagnosis it can be beyond our comprehension.  You might at times feel helpless and wonder in what ways you can be supportive.  It is such a fragile time for those that have been diagnosed and for those people that love them. Did you know that many studies have found that cancer survivors with a strong support system tend to adjust to these changes better, are more likely to have a more positive outlook, and often can experience a better quality of life?   Not sure how to be supportive?  It is understandable.  Here we will share some ways you can make a difference so you can help to play a role in being the support system they need. 

Learn How To Be A Good Listener

First things first, listen.  There will be times they need someone to talk to.  Be sure to listen, without judgment and without unsolicited advice on how they could have done something differently.  If you are truly listening and observing – it will clue you into what they need.  Also, learn as much as you can about their diagnosis.  You can do this by listening to them and doing your research.

Calls and Texts

Make sure they know how much they mean to you.  There are ways you can show them how much you care despite what changes they are going through.

  • You can send little notes, texts or if they prefer phone calls – call them regularly
  • Be sure to ask questions about them not just about their cancer diagnosis
  • If you say you will call them – make sure you follow through
  • Arrange times to talk that work best for them
  • Return their messages as soon as possible
  • If they have a caregiver, ask their caregiver what their needs are

Spend Time With Them

Cancer can feel very isolating. Try to spend time with them.  You may just be the welcomed distraction they need. Always be respectful of their time, call before you visit. Be understanding when they can’t see you.  It is also important to include them in life events – like birthday parties and other social events.  Let them be the ones to tell you if the commitment is too much or not.

  • Schedule times to visit that allows you to give physical and emotional support to the caregiver, too. Maybe you can arrange times to give their caregiver some free time to do other things while you stay with your loved one.
  • Even short visits can be appreciated.  Understand that they might not want to talk, but they may not like being alone either.
  • Try to tell them your next planned visit.  It could give them something to look forward to.
  • Ask if you can bring a snack or a meal.
  • If you can arrange to visit outside of the weekends or the holidays – try to do so.  They may have visitors almost every weekend and can be lonely during the weekdays.
  • See if getting some outside time with them is feasible – especially on beautiful days.
  • Try to show affection.  If they like hugs – hug them.  
  • You can also pamper them if you both feel comfortable with that.  

Find Ways To Be Helpful

Many people want to help their loved ones during difficult times. Ask what matters most to them and what could actually be of help.

  • See if there are any errands you can run for them.
  • Run an errand for the caregiver; it can be just as helpful as running an errand for your friend or family member.
  • Offer to take them to and from their doctor’s appointments.  If you can not be with them during their appointment, bring a book and read while you wait.
  • Look for ways you can be of help on a regular basis.

There are many ways you can be of help.  If there are times when you are unsure, then take the time and sincerely communicate that you would like to help but would like to do so in a way that is most beneficial to them.  

Some people can find it difficult to accept support – even if they need it.  Try not to be hurt if your friend or family member refuses help.  It probably has nothing to do with you.  It can be more about pride and their need for independence.

Thoughtful & Fun Gifts To Lift Their Spirits

  • Comfy or silly socks
  • Fun hats or scarves
  • Soft washcloths, towels, or sheets
  • Silk or satin pillowcases
  • Pajamas or a robe
  • Favorite foods or snacks
  • Self-care items such as a special pillow or a heating pad
  • Pictures of friends or family members
  • Help them create an upbeat playlist or find nature sounds they like
  • Funny movies
  • Audio books

It goes without saying that anyone dealing with cancer is facing tremendous challenges and may need extra care and consideration.  Keep open lines of communication and listen to what their actual needs are.  

As we recognize World Cancer Day on February 4th, please be sure you are going to your appointments for your annual exams.  Screenings increase the chances of detecting certain cancers early when they are most likely to be curable. If you have any questions or concerns, call or schedule an appointment.  OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we provide comprehensive, personalized gynecological and obstetric care for every woman.