How You Can Prepare for a Loved One Diagnosed with Cancer

When a loved one has been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, so many thoughts run through our mind. We wonder how to help with financial assistance for cancer patients and how we can provide emotional and physical support. What formula works best as a support person?

Given how varied people’s situations are, both for the patient and the friend or relative, that’s tough to answer. But two guiding principles stand out.

Grasping Some Difficult Opportunities

First, what may look like common sense, logical, or obvious to you may not be how the patient sees it. And, except where the patient is a child or has a mental disability, it isn’t our role to parent them, teach them or steer them in the right direction. What’s right for them may not be right for you. Choices you would make in their situation are undoubtedly going to differ, at least slightly and perhaps dramatically, from what they would do.

That may be the hardest lesson: don’t steer; the patient is driving.

The second principle flows from the first: support means backing the choices of our friend or relative even when we would choose differently. Our advice can be useful, but it may not be wanted. Instead, the best support is usually the simplest: carry out the instructions and wishes of the patient.

Following the patient’s lead can be extremely hard. Many cancer patients make life and death decisions. They are making choices that sometimes contravene our own principles.

But that is often the most important preparation we can make. Whether we’re in a position to offer financial assistance to a cancer patient or some advice, our most important contribution is often just being there in a way that the patient finds meaningful.

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