Cancer Journey

Your Loved One Has Cancer: You Can Make a Difference

Tips for navigating through the cancer journey

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Cancer is likely one of the most difficult challenges you and your loved one will ever face. As the caregiver, your body may be unaffected by the disease, but you may feel the effects of the diagnosis in every other aspect of your life. Each person and each family has a unique experience with cancer.

Though you may feel overwhelmed as you wonder how to navigate this new terrain, when you take time to educate yourself about your loved one’s diagnosis, and follow some key guideposts along the way, you can offer support that makes a difference in your experience together.

There are many ways to support a friend or loved one who is undergoing cancer treatment. The kind of help you provide depends on the unique needs of the patient, the existing support structure and side effects of treatment.

Some important ways you can offer assistance include:

  • Helping to choose the best care provider for your loved one’s needs
  • Gathering and organizing information on treatment options, appointment notes, etc. (Click here for more information.)
  • Providing emotional support
  • Helping with routine tasks like cooking, shopping and paying bills
  • Transporting the patient to and from treatment
  • Managing medications and prescriptions

Physician Tip:

Dr. Perre: Caregivers may provide help to their loved ones by providing emotional, spiritual and physical help. Many people who have been recently diagnosed with cancer feel stressed, frightened, and depressed. They may not sleep well. They may have fatigue. A caregiver can help by lending a listening ear. They can pray for their loved-one. Making a meal or volunteering to do house-work or yard-work can be very helpful, especially when the most routine of tasks can physically drain a person going through a recent diagnosis of cancer.

Dr. Perre: Similar to patients who have just been diagnosed with cancer, patients who are actively undergoing treatment need emotional, spiritual and physical help. Often the most routine of tasks can be difficult and exhausting. Making a meal, raking leaves or helping a patient do housework can be extremely supportive. Also preserving the patient’s dignity by showing them love and understanding is probably the most important thing a caregiver can do.

Caregiver Insight: The Power of Hope and Faith

As a caregiver, Susan says that knowing Roger was receiving the best-possible care eased her burden, as did the hope she was offered by the care team: “Knowing that we had hope from the beginning was powerful,” she says. As Christians, she and Roger were also bolstered throughout their journey by their faith: “I felt like God had a plan, and being there was that plan,” Susan says. “Our faith saw us through.”