How to Provide Support After a Cancer Diagnosis

Learn five ways to be there for someone during their fight.

Posted: 10/11/2011 11:39 AM EDT

When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, you might feel helpless and at a loss for what to say or do to comfort them. Do you shower her with attention or give her some space? And should you offer treatment suggestions or let him figure things out on his own? Below, we share nine tips on how to be there for someone during the fight.

1. Stay informed. Read about the disease, available treatments and any developments in the field so that you know exactly what he’s referring to in your conversations.

2. Be present. Don’t try to counsel him on treatment decisions as this is such a personal issue that should be made with a doctor, but be available to listen to any concerns or lend a shoulder to cry on. You can also offer to keep her company during chemotherapy sessions, babysit the kids for a weekend or bring over food for those days when the family is too beat to cook.

3. Life goes on. Acknowledge the fact that your friend has cancer, but don’t revolve every conversation around it. Do things that will take his mind off of it for a while and bring some laughter into his life. Just keep in mind that someone going through cancer treatments might not have the energy to hang out for an entire day.

4. Show affection. The last thing you should do now is withdraw during her time of need. But with that said, know when to give her space. She’s going to go through a rollercoaster of emotions and will sometimes need some time alone to come to terms with the situation.

5. Deal with your feelings. Don't hide the emotions that might come up within you by pushing them aside. Caregivers, especially, can feel overwhelmed and become exhausted from the role they’re playing in their loved one’s life, but it’s important that you take time to nurture your emotional and physical health, too. Otherwise you won’t be able to help anyone else. It’s okay to share responsibilities with someone you both trust.


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