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Being There: Supporting a Loved One During Cancer Treatment

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If a person you love is diagnosed with cancer, make an effort to treat your loved one as normal as possible without disregarding the fact that they were stricken with the disease. In other words, adopt a business-as-usual approach and let your loved one determine whether they feel well enough for activities. In terms of ways to be supportive, don’t wait for your friend or family member to come to you—it’s likely they don’t want to feel like a burden. Instead, perform specific actions that can show your love and support without being invasive or overbearing. The Vascular Institute shares a few ways you can help that will go a long way physically and emotionally. 

 

Pitching In

Declutter

Stress, nausea, headaches, and fatigue are all common side effects of cancer treatment. One way to help relieve these feelings is by decluttering the home. It’s likely that your loved one isn’t up for the task—or shouldn’t be doing anything overly arduous—so step in and do the physical aspect while he or she instructs you on what to keep and what to toss. Next, you can create a serene spot within the home conducive to relaxation. Think candles, cozy blankets and pillows, and plants. Along with serving as natural air purifiers, copious studies indicate that exposure to leafy foliage can boost mood and reduce stress. 

 

Meal Prep 

Whether you schedule a meal delivery service, grocery delivery, or prepare some home-cooked meals, keep chemo in mind. Foods that help negate the side effects include: carrots, gravy, rice, bananas, whole grains, ginger candy, custard, orange juice, onions, garlic, and lean proteins.

 

Kids and Pets

Offer to help babysit or take the kids to and from school and activities. Walk the dog, take pets to the vet, and make sure they have enough food and supplies. 

 

Be the Voice

Offer to handle returning phone calls or responding to emails and/or get-well cards. Coordinate visits on your loved one’s behalf.

 

Follow Their Lead

Any sort of diagnosis leads to a search for treatment methods, and a cancer diagnosis is no different. Help your loved one look into or research certain complementary therapies they are interested in. It could be a traditional method such as yoga or massage, or something a little more unique like Reiki and healing touch. 

 

Being There

Act Mindfully

  • Base your actions and words on the information you’re receiving from your loved one. Some people use humor; others are more introverted. Respect any direction and adapt if need be. 
  • Be there on good days and bad. There will be several mental and physical challenges along the way. 
  • Respect any decisions they make regarding their treatment even though you may not agree. 

 

What Not to Do

  • Don’t be judgmental or give advice when it wasn’t requested.
  • Don’t be afraid to step away if mood swings or a violent temper become too destructive on your own psyche. You need to make sure your own mental health is in check if you’re going to help someone else, so don’t don’t forget about self-care
  • Don’t assume that your loved one can no longer complete a specific task or participate in a usual activity.
  • Don’t let your stress be contagious. Whether it’s stress related to your loved one’s diagnosis, your work, your home life or anything else, take steps to mitigate your stress so that it doesn’t affect them.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about their illness if they want to discuss it with you.
  • Don’t use a patronizing tone and/or phrases like, “I can imagine how you feel,” when you truly can’t.  

Everyone handles cancer treatment differently, so you may have to reinvent yourself in order to offer effective support for your loved one. It can be difficult to remember exactly what you should and shouldn’t say, so don’t beat yourself up if you fumble. The physical and emotional support you give your loved one just may be the best medicine they receive. 

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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