“It is the passion to come back. If you have the passion, you can come back,” said a cancer survivor. We always think there are two types of people when it comes to cancer—victims and survivors. Little do we realize that there is a third category, the loved ones of the patient.
When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the news causes enormous stress to everyone in that person’s life. Medical therapies and expert care are an essential part of cancer treatment, but what crucially adds to its effectiveness is a support system. Kimberly Fink, founder of Treatmint Box (for cancer patients) and a cancer-survivor herself explains “One of the things I noticed from my own experience is that so many people reach out in the beginning, but then they didn’t know how to continue to support me so most often they stopped communication all together. For the patient, this results in feeling disconnected and not being supported EXACTLY when you need it the most.”
It is important to understand that family members form an integral part of cancer care. From the moment of diagnosis to the culmination of the treatment, they bring with them a range of emotional and interpersonal dynamics necessary to combat the disease. People who have strong social support—good friends and family—tend to cope much better.
Here are a few tips to meaningfully support a loved one through this difficult time.
1. Be Available
You might not be able to make everything fine, but you can surely make things better just by being there. Accompanying your loved one to every doctor’s appointment is something you should never overlook. This is the time they are most aware of their ailment and will need you the most.
Another way to help your friend or family member during this time is to be well-informed of their schedule. Practical help is the need of the hour. Lending a hand in doing the housework, preparing meals, assisting with childcare or running errands will help lighten their mental burden. Kathleen Booker, a certified Conscious Connected Breathwork Therapy coach, tells us that when her close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer she would “…cook for Mary and her family, and cook in large amounts, that way they could freeze meals and save them for later. I also did research on what veggies and herbs would support her body.”
2. Don’t Worry About Making Things Perfect
Confused if you are doing it right? You need not stress on doing the right things or saying the right words. Being all ears when they wish to talk or simply sitting beside them will make their world seem brighter. Ravid Yosef, a cancer survivor sighs, “You don’t need to learn the ins and outs of what I’m going through, just come over. Be physically there for me or call and ask how I’m doing. Share a meal with me, or lay in my bed and watch a movie. This was what I needed and wish I had more of, when I was sick..”
3. Be Flexible
Nothing is set in stone; treatment is only good until it works on the patient—and for that acceptance is necessary. “Sometimes patients do not want to discuss their appetite or their situation. Being there to listen and offer a warm smile is often the greatest gift. A thoughtful snack, casserole, or other healthy dish can bring joy and happiness to a loved one,” says Gerald Miletello, co-author of Eating Well Through Cancer. Avoid imposing anything on them and respect their wishes. Sometimes all they need is a little time.
4. Keep Things Light & Normal
You don’t always need to be strong, but make sure you don’t break down—at least not in front of them. “Don’t stop talking about everyday things like work gossip, challenges in your life, or even the cold you’re battling, and make it a point to call. When you don’t discuss these things, they feel like you’re cutting them out of your life because of their cancer,” suggests Dr Brandy Ficek.
5. Reduce Your Own Stress
The first thing you need to do is to make peace with reality. You can’t give what you don’t have. Psychological distress among family members has adverse effects at all stages of the illness.
6. Understand The Disease
Learning more about the disease will help you understand how it affects your friends or family members and find ways to deal with it. This includes explicit conversations with doctors and professional care-givers so that you know where you are needed from a clinical point of view.
7.Make The Medical Treatment Work
Yes, you can exemplify the treatment your loved one gets. No doubt he or she must be getting the best medical care possible, but it is always prudent to get a second opinion.
You can also turn to natural ways of healing through research and professional help. Complementary therapies like yoga, acupuncture, massage, fitness programs and meditation have helped many patients cope with the symptoms of cancer, its treatment and side effects.
8. Laugh It Out
Laughter is, after all, the best medicine. Let your humor and bright smile instill positivity in the environment.
Are you passionate enough to bring your loved one back? If you feel that you have reached the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. Don’t lose hope, ever!