• Dhvani Pandey

How to Support a Loved One Diagnosed with Cancer

It is well known that the strength and perseverance of a person who undergoes the tribulations that come with a diagnosis of an illness such as cancer, is truly unmatched. But I think another effort worth noting is that of the one who cares for the diagnosed. Playing the role of a pillar to a patient while trying to stay strong for yourself and bearing the emotions that come with it is a feat in itself. This article sheds some light on how one can carry on as a person in such a position.

How to Talk to Someone with Cancer

  • Let them hold the reins in conversations about their health: How much they wish to share, if any at all, should stay in their control.

  • Know if they're looking for advice: Sometimes the patient can be looking for suggestions, while sometimes they might just want to feel heard. People often offer unwanted advice because they aren’t sure what else they can do. They may feel helpless to do anything, yet want to show their concern. While it may come from a good place, it can still seem judgmental.

  • Don't be self-centered: If you're trying to comfort them remember that the focus is on them, not you. Avoid phrases such as, "I know how you feel", and give the spotlight to their emotions.

  • Active listening: Focus on listening and understanding what they're saying, rather than thinking about what to respond.

How You Can Help

  • Know that it's okay to feel unhelpful: You might not know what to say or do to help your loved one. Remember that it's better to admit that yet still stay in touch than to stay away.

  • Encourage them to pursue what they love: Remind them that this diagnosis does not mean the end of their life as they know it. Push them to seek out what makes them happy.

  • Spend time together: It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Quality time with one another is beneficial not only to the patient but for you as well.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for external help: Be it in the caretaking process or for your own personal mental well being, it is okay to seek extra assistance and does not need to come with any feelings of guilt.

How to Take Care of Yourself

During this time, the natural response of most caregivers is to put their own feelings and needs aside. They try to focus on the person with cancer and the many tasks of caregiving. This may be fine for a little while. But it can be hard to keep up for a long time. And it’s not good for your health. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. It’s important for everyone that you take care of yourself.

  • Your mind needs a break from the demands of caregiving. Think about what gives you comfort or helps you relax. Caregivers say that even a few minutes a day without interruptions helps them to cope and focus. Take 15–30 minutes each day to do something for yourself, no matter how small it is.

  • Look for Positives: It can be hard finding positive moments when you’re busy caregiving but regaining perspective is key to be able to get through trying times. So even if it is just small joys such as the color of the sky or singing along to your favorite song, remember to look at the bright side when you feel strong enough.

Whether good or bad, life-changing situations often give people the chance to grow, learn, and appreciate what’s important to them. Many people who care for someone with cancer describe the experience as a personal journey. They say it has changed them forever. Much like the way people with cancer describe their experience. It’s not necessarily a journey that caregivers would have chosen for themselves. But they can use their skills, strength, and talents to support their loved one while finding out more about themselves along the way.

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