Are you among the millions of people with a friend or family member diagnosed with cancer? According to the National Cancer Institute, the number of people diagnosed with cancer reached a staggering 14.5 million in 2014, and is expected to reach nearly 19 million by 2024.
A cancer diagnosis is a lot to take in. If someone you love is battling cancer, never underestimate the power of support, which plays a pivotal role in a cancer patient’s recovery. Your constant encouragement and positive energy can do wonders to improve their mental and physical health.
What should you expect?
Life gets pretty lonely after a cancer diagnosis. For some patients, it may be challenging to find strength in sharing thoughts and feelings with others who do not understand what they’re going through. But in time, they will find solace in you. Your patience, persistence, and unending support can soon provide a safe place to share their experiences in dealing with cancer.
Here are a few tips to help your loved one manage their disease.
1. Recognize depression
Your friend or family member is going through a lot, allowing depression to swoop in and cloud their thoughts and emotions. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines depression as a common but serious illness involving a down, hopeless, and sometimes suicidal feeling for weeks at a time.
It is crucial to familiarize yourself with the most common signs of depression, which may include:
- A feeling of confusion
- Loss of hope
- The absence of enthusiasm and will to do anything
Depending on the cancer treatment plan, the following could be a sign of depression if not stated as a possible side effect of medication:
- Getting too much or too little sleep
- Lack of energy and constant fatigue
- No desire to eat
- Extreme weight loss or weight gain
Cancer patients who suffer from depression may require medical treatment. A healthcare provider may prescribe counseling and medication. If they have recurring thoughts of harming themselves or others, contact a healthcare provider immediately or go directly to a hospital emergency room for assistance.
Communicating with your loved one makes a world of a difference. Allow them to share their thoughts, shed tears, and explain fears. You may not have firsthand experience in what they are going through, but sometimes, it helps to have a set of ears willing to listen. Being able to talk or cry freely about their diagnosis may help them feel better. If they can confide in you, they are less likely to keep their feelings bottled up.
2. Understand their treatment plan
If you take the time to grasp their condition and treatment, it will be much easier to empathize and understand the process of their recovery. Educate yourself on the matter by accompanying them to doctor’s appointments. Not only is your presence an act of kindness, but it also provides an opportunity to learn. You can do so by asking the doctor questions about your loved one’s prognosis and treatment.
3. Help with daily tasks
Cancer can take a physical toll on your loved one, thus, the need for daily support. In addition to accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, make it a point to assist with personal care like dressing and feeding. You can also offer to run errands, prepare nutritious meals, or clean their home.
4. Organize a healthcare plan
Organizing a plan that keeps appointments and medicine consumption in check may be difficult for someone battling the side effects of treatment. If possible, offer to step in and lend a helping hand. Go out of your way to create a schedule of their doctor’s appointments or for taking medication.
5. Support their decisions
Going against some of your loved one’s decisions is inevitable. The road towards recovery is a challenging and stressful process, meaning it also comes with a few arguments. You may disagree with your loved one’s choice of diet and treatment, but if they ask for help in making decisions — there is nothing wrong with having a proper sit-down and weigh the pros and cons. Bear in mind that the final decision is ultimately in their hands.
6. Do the necessary research on their behalf
Treating cancer can create a financial burden for your loved one. There are multiple resources available for financial assistance, and it would offer a great deal of help if you could do it on their behalf. Make an effort to speak with social workers or private organizations to discuss treatment eligibility. Upon diagnosis, you may also ask their doctor about local or statewide resources.
7. Offer continuing support
“It’s not always at the beginning of the illness that patients need support. They need support along the entire continuum,” says social worker Meredith Cammarata. Offers of help often “flood in at the beginning of the diagnosis and then it begins to trickle,” she adds. “It’s important to remember that the help is not just needed when they’re first diagnosed or in the hospital.”
When the time comes that your loved one’s cancer goes into remission, it does not mean that they no longer need you. Remember that your friend or relative battled a life-threatening illness, and it may take some time for them to regain full strength and resume everyday activities.
In addition, most cancer patients are required to make lifestyle changes to reduce the likelihood of a relapse. For cancer patients with unhealthy lifestyles, it is crucial to make dietary improvements and maintain an active lifestyle to strengthen their immune system.
You can provide your assistance by helping them find recipes and prepare nutritious meals. When it comes to working out, it’s better done in pairs than alone. Support, encourage, and join your loved one as they begin a new exercise routine. A study concludes that having a partner is key to exercising more, meaning there is no better way to hit your fitness goals than to train in pairs.
A word of advice
You don’t need medical training or experience as a caregiver to help someone manage cancer. With your undying support and love, it will prove much easier for them to cope with this reality and remain a positive outlook throughout treatment.
Are you still looking for treatment options?
If you seek a combination of conventional and alternative cancer treatments, consider New Hope Medical Center. We provide the most comprehensive treatment of chronic degenerative diseases and immune disorders, with emphasis on improving a patient’s quality of life. Call us at 480-666-1403 to discuss your loved one’s treatment options.