One of the hardest things to hear is a diagnosis of cancer. This is an incredibly difficult thing for a patient as well as a family member. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries can be incredibly painful, and watching your loved one go through this process can make you feel completely helpless. You may be asking what you can do to help them through this difficult time. There are several practical ways for you to help a family member while they are battling cancer. Most experts recommend for you to be truly present, take care of small daily tasks, and above all, remain flexible and available to help your loved ones however they may need you. Having these set tasks will help them immensely while also giving you tasks to help feel less helpless and alone.
Be Present With Them
Cancer can be scary for everyone involved. It can be an even scarier thing to go through alone. One of the biggest ways you can help as a family member is to be truly present with your loved one. Attend their doctor appointments and ask questions to help them know that they aren’t alone. Come in knowing your facts about colon cancer if that’s the type of diagnosis, and be prepared to take in new information. It can be incredibly overwhelming to make treatment decisions alone, so even being that extra person in the room provides comfort.
Being present can also mean having sympathy and showing support. Knowing what to say can be the hardest part about learning of a cancer diagnosis. Oftentimes, cancer patients have said they need someone who knows and understands them, but don’t have to be strong around. In this case, listening to their complaints and simply agreeing that “things suck” can help tremendously. Don’t compare their experience to a hard time you had in your life or another cancer patient’s. Their experience is unique and difficult in individual ways, so allow them to have those moments of complaining and unapologetic ranting. Reaffirm that you will always love and support them no matter what. A lot of anger and confusion revolves around cancer diagnoses, so the more you can be a positive light, the more you can help your family member.
Take Care of the Small Tasks
Cancer treatment can be incredibly overwhelming. Whether your loved one is recovering from surgery or weekly doses of chemo, their process may be painful and require a lot of rest. Because of this, simple tasks may go by the wayside. Offering to cook a meal or even pick up groceries can be a small errand for you that saves them a big outing. Perhaps take an opportunity when they are at the doctor’s office to clean their home for them so they have a nice environment to come home to. Taking away these stresses of shopping and cleaning allows the patient more time to rest and recuperate at home. You can also try to find fun new surprises for your loved one. While they may not have the strength for a full shopping day, you can order them a lace maxi dress or a comfy new recliner for their living room. While loved ones go through cancer treatments, a little gift can be just the pick-me-up that might make their day.
Be Flexible in Your Support
The key to helping a loved one through cancer is to remember to be flexible. Though this may be a hard time for you as well, your main focus should still be the patient. Support their needs and be flexible to their changing moods. Unless you’ve also been through cancer, you don’t actually know what they are going through. Give them space and permission to complain and understand that, as much as you may want to, you can’t fix everything for them. Even though you can’t make everything better, you can give them little gifts and glimmers of hope in different places, and those little moments can make all the difference.