How to Support someone being treated for Cancer?

How to Support someone being treated for Cancer?
March 23 07:30 2021 by admin Print This Article

Cancer evokes strong reactions in people ranging from shock, fear, pathos, bitterness, anger, guilt, frustration, pity, despair, and resentment. Both the patient and their caregiver, who could be a family member or close friend, go through a range of emotions right from the time symptoms show up, through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery stages. It’s good to have the support of friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances during this difficult journey.

But support can be tricky. Not everyone has experience showing support to a dear one who is being treated with cancer. There is always doubt and anxiety on what to say or not say, do or not do, leaving the person hesitating. This article has been put together to help such people, so they can be more forthcoming with their love and support. The following guidelines will help.

Keep the visit short; ask before you go

Cancer can leave the person physically tired. Combine this with the psychological burden of the ailment, cancer patients do not have as much energy as people suffering from other ailments. So keep the visit short. It’s better to make several short visits than a one-time and long visit. The former shows you care, the latter that it’s a formality. Ask the patient and the caregiver for the best time to come. Also, be prepared for a last-minute cancellation due to an unexpected appointment with the doctor, or a spell of pain and discomfort.

Acknowledge the situation, do not trivialize it

When you visit the patient, be solemn. Do not dismiss the ailment or make outlandish statements that the person will overcome it with ease. Only the patient knows what he/she is going through, so trivializing the situation will make you look insensitive. Observe the person’s mood closely and then mirror your words or actions accordingly.

Empathize, not sympathize

Even as you acknowledge the situation, do not overdo it. Do not make an emotional scene. That can increase the patient’s discomfort. Also, do not show pity or sympathy as it can hurt the patient’s self-respect. Instead, offer comfort, support, and assurances or help when required. Stay balanced, this way your visitors will be uplifting and not upsetting to the patient. Surprise the person with a hug, a handshake, or a gentle squeeze of the hands.

Do not probe for details, ask how they feel

It’s painful to repeat the same information time and again to everyone who asks for it. You can as well ask to see the reports and gather the details yourself. Instead, ask how the person feels? What are the physical and mental experiences they are having? Even if it’s painful for them to say, it’s cathartic. The person will feel better after sharing these. It will also help you choose your words and actions accordingly.

Do not make comparisons

Do not tell the patient that a friend or relative had the same condition and they recovered quickly, so they should not worry. Each patient, and each cancer, even if of the same type, is unique. There are a million parameters that set one cancer patient apart from another. Avoid false assurances or the other extreme – gloomy statements about the condition. Stay sensible.

Do not give medical advice

It’s common for friends and family to pour a ton of advice at the patient’s bedside. What to eat, what not to, what to do, what to avoid, how to exercise, how not to, whom to consult, whom to reject – the list is endless! All these are futile, generic, and may not apply to your dear one. Further, cancer treatment is a well-orchestrated affair, so in addition to the specialists and general physicians on the case, there are dieticians to take care of nutrition and therapists who address rehabilitation.

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Run errands for the patient or caregiver

In real-time and the real world, both the patient and their caregiver have multiple day-to-day tasks to take care of. It’s very reassuring to them if somebody can partake of these tasks once in a while or regularly. Ask them in detail about these activities; make a list, then pick and choose one or more tasks which you can undertake now and then.

Create a phone team of mutual friends

This is easy. Create a Whatsapp or email group of mutual friends. Initiate conversations about various topics and not just your dear one’s ailment. The patient will feel connected to the outside world and this is uplifting.

Accompany them to a doctor’s appointment

Once in a while, give the caregiver a break. Accompany the patient to the doctor’s clinic. This will break the monotony and overcome any feelings of guilt that the patient has towards the caregiver. On the way, or while waiting for the doctor, discuss topics of mutual interest… This will create a lively conversation and overcome the gloomy feel that comes from doctor visits.

Give a thoughtful gift

The patient may have some special interest or a hobby. Give him/her a gift related to the same; or anything which would be of use during these trying times. The patient will feel good about it and such positive feelings aid in the recovery process.

Offer, initiate practical help

In real life, a cancer patient may be going through a lot more than just the ailment. Somebody may be looking for a job change; somebody may be renovating or shifting the house. Somebody may be preparing for the upcoming marriage of a child, or someone may be falling back on statutory formalities. While small tasks and errands get managed, it’s these larger projects that suffer. Probe your dear one about these things and offer help. Enlist the support of friends and acquaintances who can help in specific ways.

Finally, suggest financial help

While this can be dicey, it’s nevertheless important. If you have an idea about your dear one’s financial situation, you can offer help or garner support to reduce his/her burden in unique or creative ways.


Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur, Salem and Bengaluru, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777 • Bengaluru – 080 6801 6801

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  1. Laxminath
    March 24, 21:14 #1 Laxminath

    Support is the most important thing when going through a major health issue.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Pavithra
    April 22, 11:07 #2 Pavithra

    Care and support are much needed during such situations.

    Reply to this comment

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