Hearing “you have cancer” affects not just the cancer patient, but loved ones like you. It can be intimidating and challenging to face a cancer diagnosis with a friend or family member who is going through a wide range of emotions. What role should you play as they begin their cancer treatment? How can you help? And what can you do to cope with the situation yourself?
These are all common questions asked by loved ones of recently-diagnosed cancer patients. At Hunt Regional’s Lou & Jack Finney Cancer Center, we not only work with cancer patients to ensure they have all of the information they need, we also work with their loved ones to answer questions and provide support.
As you embark down this new road with your loved one, keep the following information in mind.
First, try to understand what your loved one is feeling.
It’s impossible to fully comprehend what your loved one is thinking and feeling, but you should do your best to understand. There are physical, mental and emotional components your loved one may be dealing with right now. If they are just beginning the cancer treatment process, they may have anxiety, worry or confusion. Maybe your loved one is angry. Or maybe he/she is in denial. No matter what they are experiencing, try your best to put yourself in their shoes.
Be prepared for cancer treatment side effects.
Once your loved one begins cancer treatment, they may begin to experience the physical hardships that accompany cancer – the side effects.
Remind your loved one to keep their doctor up-to-date on any side effects they are experiencing. Many of the issues that arise during cancer treatments can be controlled, but your loved one’s doctor can’t do anything if they don’t speak up. Also, talk to your loved one’s doctor about ways you can help at home. They may be able to provide specific advice depending on your loved one’s type of cancer treatment.
Be a support system when needed, but know when to take a step back.
As your loved one continues cancer treatment, they may not be able to do all of the tasks they once could, like cooking meals, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, taking the kids to their activities, etc. This is where you can help. However, keep in mind that your loved one may want to keep doing some things on their own, and you should try to let them stick to as normal of a routine as possible. Be there if your loved one needs you, but don’t force them to depend on you.
Understand that your loved one may feel angry or bitter, and they may take it out on you.
It’s normal for any person to become frustrated when they don’t understand why they’re in such a devastating situation. They may feel anxious and distracted from everyday life. They may act like the once important things in their life no longer matter. It’s your job to not take offense to these feelings and be as supportive as possible.
Know that sometimes cancer patients need to talk to someone who’s been through it.
Cancer support groups are a wonderful way to connect with others who understand exactly what your loved one is dealing with. It may be hard to comprehend, but support groups may provide more emotional support than you can. In addition to recommending a cancer support group to your loved one, such as Journey Into Life, you could also join a caregiver support group to help yourself cope throughout this difficult journey.
Those of us at Hunt Regional’s Lou & Jack Finney Cancer Center are here for you and your loved one throughout every stage of this cancer journey – diagnosis, treatment and after treatment. For more information specific to you, please review our Visitor Information section.