How to Give Emotional and Practical Support to a Cancer Patient

A cancer diagnosis can change a person’s life and create emotional turmoil. Physical pain and other symptoms from cancer spreading throughout the body can strip even the most optimistic person’s positivity, forcing pessimism to set in and making it harder for individuals to cope with their diagnosis. As for the family members witnessing their loved one navigate the challenges of cancer, their hearts break as they hope for recovery.

If someone close to you is battling cancer, being an active listener and choosing compassionate words may give them enough hope to push forward and fight. Let’s talk about how your words and actions can help a cancer patient during one of the most trying times in their life.


Emotional vs. Practical Support for Cancer Patients

Supporting someone with cancer can provide the strength and determination they need to get through their journey. Your help and support can be emotional (e.g. listening, comforting) or practical (e.g. undertaking concrete tasks, such as ensuring they take their medication on time).


Emotional Support

Here are specific ways to provide emotional support to a cancer patient:

  • Listen actively: When your loved one wants to talk, put aside distractions and give them your full attention.
  • Offer encouragement: Although “words of affirmation” ranks third, with 29 percent of Americans choosing it as their preferred way to receive affection, most individuals with other love languages still want to hear encouraging, heartfelt words. So, tell them you will be there to hold their hand through it all, and that they will overcome this battle.
  • Validate how they feel: It’s important to validate a cancer patient’s feelings and provide comfort, which may help them realize that having a rollercoaster of emotions during this time is normal and acceptable.


Practical Support

You can provide practical assistance through the following:

  • Prepare meals: Making healthy meals can be physically demanding for someone with cancer. Putting together ready-to-eat, reheatable meals is one of the most helpful acts of service someone can do for a cancer patient, ensuring they get their daily fill of energy and good nutrition.
  • Run errands in their place: Tasks such as picking up prescriptions or grocery shopping may be difficult for a person undergoing or recovering from cancer treatments. Offering to run those errands can take some of the weight off their shoulders.
  • Help with household chores: If they struggle to prepare their own meals or pick up groceries, they may also find it hard to keep up with household chores. Offer to help with tasks around the house, including doing the laundry, changing the bedsheets, or mowing the lawn, among others.

We also recommend the article, Supporting Someone with Cancer: Best and Worst Ways to Help, for a more detailed guide with practical tips.


A Reminder to Be There for Your Loved One

While supporting someone through a cancer diagnosis can be tough, doing so can foster a stronger bond than ever before. Simply be there for your loved one and show how much you care in whatever way you can. From listening carefully to providing practical aid when necessary, your words and actions will go a long way toward helping them cope during this difficult time. What’s more, with you by their side, your loved one will be better equipped to face the challenges of cancer and come out stronger on the other side.

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