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Ways To Support A Loved One With Cancer

Updated on April 8, 2010

Getting a diagnosis of any type of cancer can be earth shattering. Your world can turn upside down within a matter of seconds. This is a vulnerable time for them and the way you respond can make all the difference. Support from family and friends is very important to his/her recovery. I work in a cancer clinic and see people suffering from this disease everyday. I am by no means an expert on this subject. I have learned a great deal of helpful information from the patients and their families by listening with not only my ears but my heart as well. Here are five tips that I thought was most important in helping your loved one through this journey.

  1. Deal With Yourself First. Before you help them, you have to help yourself first.This is very important. You need to deal with your own pain, hurt and denial. You will need to face all your fears and worries. Perhaps you could confide in a friend that will just listen. This will be difficult but you need to do it. You will need to express everything that you are scared of and then deal with it. This will help you when you have to listen and help your loved one cope with his/her diagnosis. After you have had your meltdown, whether that be screaming, crying, throwing things,or whatever it may be, get a grip and get yourself together and get ready to fight this disease!
  2. Be With Them. Unfortunately, bills still come due and the house responsibilities still need to be taken care of. Lend a hand wherever it's needed. Maybe offer to come over and do some laundry or vacuum carpet. Maybe you could cook a meal for them or anything that would really help them with these everyday tasks that will still be there. This will show them how much you care and want to help in any way that you are able to.
  3. Keeping It Normal. You should try and do things as you did before as much as possible. Sometimes it is not possible, but try to do what you can to bring some normalcy back in the picture. Keeping it normal helps the patient to feel like this cancer has not beaten them down. It also can help them to feel more confident and supported in the recovery and possibly be able to cope with things better.
  4. Laugh Often. Remember the saying "Laughter is the best Medicine"? How many times have you heard that? Many I'm sure, but there is some truth in it. When we laugh, there are these things called endorphins which are little mood enhancement chemicals that are released which in turn gives us a sense of well being. This can create a closeness with the person you are are sharing a laugh with. Laughter can also improve your immune system which can help with resisting infection. It also can give you more energy making you feel better and possibly taking away some of your physical and emotional pain. Laughter gives you a feeling of hope and can inspire you and your loved ones.
  5. Staying Positive. I know that saying and doing are two completely different things. You need to stay positive and act positive as much as you can. A positive attitude in a patient can make all the difference. I have seen the difference this can make. If you give up, they may give up feeling like there is no chance of recovery. I'm not saying you need to be in denial or not prepared about a situation that is terminal but being positive can give your loved one a sense of hope and a better will to live.

I hope this information has been helpful to someone. Like I said before, I am not an expert on this but I am a good listener and have learned a lot from my patients and their families that I see on a regular basis.


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    • profile image

      Remie 5 years ago

      I m only 14 years old and my grandfather has a stage 3 brain cancer. I don't know how long he may stay with us here, and it's my first time losing someone i love so i dong't know what to do.I've been trying to find answers to my prayers and God has led me to ur advice, I feel much better and confident and will help my grandfather go through his sickness. Thank u very much, i appreciate it!!!!

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 5 years ago from Mississippi


      So sorry your wife is having to go through chemo. It can be so hard on the body. It's tough. Just be there and support her in any way you can which I'm sure you are already doing. I hope she soon gets better and no longer needs the chemo treatments. Thank you so much for your kinds words and stopping by to read my article. I appreciate it so much!


      That is great that you gave them the support they needed and never gave up. I'm sure that it made them feel better to have that from you. Thanks so much for reading and your kind words! :)


      Thank you for taking the time to read my article and your comment. I appriciate it!

    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great advice! Thanks for writing this very helpful hub.

    • litsabd profile image

      litsabd 5 years ago

      I really love when people show so much of their humane side and share such hubs with others to read, learn and have a path lighted for them. Been there my self as I was completely lost when my loved ones were stiken by cancer. Not for a minute though, did I give up or give in. Smiling ang giving strength and support is a precious gift for those who have such a mountain to climb. thank you for sharing.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I am so glad that you survived, and have had the presence of mind to write this great advice.

      My wife Linda has been on chemo therapy for months now. It has been very hard on her, and all of us too.

      We didn't know how to deal with it.

      She hasn't got cancer but an auto immune disease which is attacking her eyes. She could lose her sight.

      The chemo is keeping it at bay. There is no known cure and she will be on meds for the rest of her life.

      We all responded in different ways, all trying to be encouraging but as we had no clue 'how to act' probably didn't help much.

      Voted up interesting useful awesome and beautiful.

      Thank you for writing this. Sharing this socially.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 7 years ago from Mississippi

      No I actually did not have to do the iodine free diet. Not sure why but I didn't. However, I did have to stay away from people for a few days. That wasn't easy!

    • The Suburban Poet profile image

      Mark Lecuona 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Your thyroid experience (the treatment) was exactly like mine... did you have to do the iodine-free diet for a couple of weeks prior to the radiation treatment? That was the hardest part! But it's a pretty good weight-loss program....

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 7 years ago from Mississippi

      Suburban Poet

      Yes cancer effects the whole family and sadly many family members and friends don't know how to handle it or better yet, how to approach it. Many people automatically think it's a death sentence. I also had thyroid cancer two years ago. Mine was caught very early. They removed my thyroid and I received one radioactive treatment. I was very lucky. You sound like your doing good also. Thanks so much for your comment!

    • The Suburban Poet profile image

      Mark Lecuona 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Thanks for posting this. I had thyroid cancer seven years ago and it nearly destroyed my family. I was partly to blame because I just wanted to get my treatment and be positive. I believed I would survive which I obviously did and I wasn't receptive to my parents fears. There seemed to be a tendency for people to want to help in their way instead of asking "how can I help." It was very bad at times. I have joked about wanting to write a book called "The Family Politics of Cancer." Maybe you ought to take a crack at it... this is a very important subject because clearly the hurt can last long after the cure.

      I remember my ENT telling me I ought not tell everyone I had cancer because they would assume it was a death sentence. At the time I thought he was wrong. It turns out he knew exactly what I was going to encounter....

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 7 years ago from Mississippi

      I am sorry to hear about your sister James but glad she is now in remission. I found out in Feb 09 that I had thyroid cancer. Luckily it was a very small amount and had not spread to any other part of my body. They removed my thyroid and I am completely cancer free. I will most certainly keep your sister and her recovery in my prayers.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      My sister is in recovery after a year of Chemo/Interferon for cancer cells found in her blood. It is gone now and we will pray for a long remission.

      You gave excellent advice on this page. Thank you for it.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 7 years ago from Mississippi

      I agree, these are all very important in any kind of tough situation that someone may have to deal with. Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate it very much.

    • Jai Warren profile image

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Smiling, laughing and staying positive is very important to keep good karma flowing in any tough situation. Great advice, ris8994.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 7 years ago from Mississippi

      Thank you Teresa for such kind words. I am more than happy to share whatever I can.

    • Teresa Laurente profile image

      Maria Teresa Rodriguez - Laurente 7 years ago from San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.

      very good advice indeed. Great to share it with every one really. Thank you for sharing this piece.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 8 years ago from Mississippi


      Thanks so much. I am glad you liked it. Laughing and staying positive are so important. Thanks for your comment.


      Thank you. I'm glad to share what I know. Cancer is ugly so we have to do what we can to make it easier to get through.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      These are wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Thanks for share a great tips for us. I liked laugh often and staying positive.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 8 years ago from Mississippi

      Thanks Rascal. I read the hub you recommend. It was great. I greatly enjoyed reading it.

    • Rascal Russ Miles profile image

      Rascal Russ Miles 8 years ago from Show Low, AZ USA

      Good informative Hub. Cancer continues to impact the lives of so many. Thanks for your comment on one of my Hubs too. As your interest is in such, you might enjoy this one.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 8 years ago from Mississippi


    • jacobkuttyta profile image

      jacobkuttyta 8 years ago from Delhi, India

      Nice advice, thanks