Source: Cancer Resource Room
I say? What can I do to help?
These are common questions that people
have when someone they care about has
cancer. Each one of us has our own ways
of coping with stressful situations.
We each have our own personal histories,
not only with illness, but with work,
relationships, and life. Because of these
differences, there is no simple answer.
Here are some tips and ideas that may
What Is the Cancer Experience Like?
In order to best help your friend or loved
one, it helps to understand what they
are going through. Some cancer survivors
describe cancer as a roller coaster ride.
There are highs and lows. Sometimes you
don't know what to expect or how you
will feel, both physically and emotionally.
Close family members like a spouse, partner,
or adult child can experience the same
roller coaster of thoughts and feelings.
Being a caregiver of someone with cancer
can also be exhausting. Daily routines
can be disrupted because of the treatment
schedule or treatment side-effects. Our
daily routines give us a sense of control
of our lives. When things are interrupted,
we can feel like we are losing control.
When coping with a cancer diagnosis,
people often feel a loss of control in
many areas of their lives.
How to Help
There are two
main ways you can help a person and their
family. One is by being present, by communicating
with your words and actions, "I am here for you." Every
person needs to feel cared for and
comforted. Your presence can become a
healing force in the life of a friend
or family member. The other is by helping
with day-to-day routine tasks.
- Listen, listen, listen. This sounds
simple but may be hard to do. Just
listening to a person say out loud
how they are feeling can be the most
- Try not to automatically offer reassuring
words when someone expresses worry
- If you want to encourage someone,
remind them of their special qualities,
like their sense of humor, or of
other challenges they have successfully
- It's best not to offer advice. Advice
often shuts down communication and
suggests there is only one solution.
Discussing choices that might be
available helps the person talk through
- Try not to compare the person's experience
to others you have known with cancer.
Remember each person's body reacts
differently to cancer and treatment.
And cancer care is always changing,
so what was done even a few years
ago may not make sense now.
- Especially at work or in the community,
respect a person's choice about how
much they want to share. If someone
confides in you, ask them how much
they want others to know. Keep private
- At work, a smile, having lunch together,
or just keeping things "normal" may
be the best way to help a co-worker
in treatment. Remember, people do
get tired of being asked, "How are
- Before you tell someone "you will
be fine," think about if you are
saying this to calm your own worries.
The phrase "you will be fine" can
cause a cancer patient to feel more
dismissed than supported.
- Comment on how brave or strong someone
is only when that seems really appropriate.
Otherwise it can make it hard for
them to tell you when they don't
feel that way.
Helping with routine tasks
not to ask a general question like, "How
can I help." It's better to offer
to help with a specific task. For
example, offer to:
- Pick up grocery
items for them when you go
to the store.
- Walk the dog.
- Take the children to
their after school activities.
with them to an appointment.
- Create a list of tasks and organize
others who want to help
to keep others informed if they
are overwhelmed by phone calls.
to stay with the children so
a couple can have time alone.
Sometimes people aren't ready for help.
It's difficult for some people to accept
help, especially in the beginning. Don't
be hurt if your help is refused; this
may be how they cope. Let them know that
you'll be checking back with them. They
may also find comfort in keeping up their
usual work or home schedule.
If you are a caregiver or other close
family member, it's okay to talk about
your feelings with your loved one who
has cancer. Keeping communication going,
no matter how difficult, can help you
both cope better. If communication is
just too hard, there are members of the
treatment team who can help. Don't hesitate
to contact them and talk about your concerns.
Remember also that you deserve help during
this difficult time. Think about letting
others help so you can have more time
to do things that you and your loved
To Search Pub Med, please see below.
and selected health professional journals
& Education Programs
We know that being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful for you and your
family. We offer a variety of cancer support services to help patients and
families gain the support and information they will need to meet the challenges
To find the upcoming education programs on
"Parenting with Cancer," "Fathers
Dealing with Cancer," and others, please
see the HOPES
Look for the current offerings in the HOPES