7 Ways You Can Help A Loved One With Cancer

I’ve known so many people with a cancer diagnosis. Some have made it through, some haven’t. In fact, three out of four of us will see a close friend or family member diagnosed with cancer - and you need to be prepared to know what to do to support a loved one, and those around them. Here are a few things you can put in place for your family member or friend if they are diagnosed with cancer.

Complementary therapy

We have the best care available here in the UK but complementary therapies can be rewarding for the mind, body and soul which is just as important when trying to stay strong to fight the battle.

Therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, nutritional counseling, yoga, fitness programs, self-hypnosis, guided imagery and meditation can help patients cope with the symptoms of cancer, cancer treatment and its side effects. Many cancer treatment programmes now offer complementary therapies but it has to be understand that these therapies do not cure cancer and it may be inadvisable to exclusively attempt to treat cancer with an alternative method.

Be Truly Present

Friends have told me that when they receive the initial diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness, they have no idea what to say.

Sometimes there are no words - you don’t have to worry about what to say but you can be there to listen and care. Trying too hard to say or do the right things or to feel like you have to fix everything can create added pressure so understand that as much as you want to fix everything… you can’t!

Be there with emotional, social and spiritual support to facilitate their treatment journey and be strong for them because there will be times that you all just want to break down and no-one should feel bad about doing that. Sometimes all someone with cancer needs is to sit beside a loved one — someone to listen and talk to her if she can’t stand the quiet, hold her hand while she cries, or pray while she prays… whatever works for each individual person.

Offer Practical Help

It can help to focus on practical, everyday tasks that you can do to make things a little easier for your loved one. You can help to prepare meals, do the housework, assist with childcare and/or running errands. Everyone will offer help, so grab that offer with both hands and draw up a rota.

Incorporate extra tasks with your own - pick up an extra basket of shopping at the supermarket or arrange playdates for the children, cook an extra meal to put in the freezer when you are making your own evening meal.. . just think about the things that seem like a natural fit with your loved one’s needs and see how you can fit that into your own routine.

Keep their chemo-schedule in your diary so you know when they, and their family, may need extra help. Next I’ve included some ideas that you can use to make this easier for you.

Shower Your Loved One With Gifts

Send a card or letter by snail mail to arrive at the end of each treatment session so that your loved on has something to read when they get home, especially when they are some way into their treatment and their new routine has become a “normal” part of everyone else’s lives.

Have a regular games day/night playing traditional board games - not too taxing but definitely keeping the brain active - plus a great opportunity for a few family or friends to gather with little pressure. This will alleviate isolation or loneliness and make them feel loved.

Whilst researching the post I was invited to take a look at the Live Better With website which provides practical gifts such that are going to make patients more comfortable I found fabulous suggestions on their website and picked out a few that I loved - take a look at their head wraps, pillows or even luxury socks. But, after reading in Marie Claire that pyjama wear for daytime use was an up and coming trend, I thought that gifting these bamboo pyjamas would be a great idea as they are cozy, yet chic and, even better, keep your temperature regulated

Live Better With is a UK-based website with a worthy mission: to “make everyday living a little better for people with cancer”. The website focuses on, and has succeeded in, being an easy-to-use shopping platform for the many available products that can improve the daily quality of life for patients with cancerAs I have mentioned previously, I do like to support UK-based and/or independent businesses where I can so I'm happy to fully recommend this company.

Be Flexible

Sometimes, what you think is best isn’t what the patient really wants or needs. Ask them what they need and be respectful of their wishes. Of course, your loved one may not know what they need or their needs may change so you may have to help them figure that out with careful questions.

When family members are able to talk to their loved one about how to help, it leaves more time, space and energy for their loved one with cancer to focus on her healing,

Take Care Of Yourself

For those in a supportive role, the most important thing is to be healthy, both physically and emotionally. The healthier you are, the better able you are to be fully present and helpful for your loved one help them through their journey.

Make sure to keep up with regular appointments and don't forget to have your eyes, teeth and ears regularly checked.  On top of this be sure to get enough sleep, eat well, get exercise and take part in activities that you enjoy. Even better - most of the aforementioned activities can be done together — enhancing wellbeing on multiple levels. 

Make Them Laugh

It’s a huge cliche but laughter really is the best medicine. Keeping things light, silly and normal allos the freedom to just let loose and experience normality. And the sound of laughter comes from deep within the soul, providing endorphines which can have an analgesic effect.

Also, you’re still creating positive and special memories for everyone to look back on with fondness. It’s very special to feel loved when everything else can feel so awful.

Disclaimer : As you know, I have personal experience of having a family member with cancer  This post was written in conjunction with Live Better With Cancer Care.   Image credits : sydney Rae | Fabian Møller