According to CBS News, more than half of Americans have had an immediate family member who has battled cancer. Despite that staggering statistic, the mental and emotional toll of cancer may seem insurmountable for loved ones, who struggle to find the right words and actions to provide a solid support system for the cancer patient in their lives.
Here are a few ways you can support a loved one through his or her diagnosis:
Be aware: Even if the individual hasn’t confided in you that he or she is struggling, educate yourself about the logistical side effects of cancer, such as financial toxicity. Research has found that cancer more than doubles the risk for bankruptcy, so financial help for cancer patients can go a long way. Companies like LifeCredit provide lifesaving loans to help patients navigate their care. Make yourself aware of such resources so you can share them with the loved in your life.
Be practical: Whether it’s finances or housework, think of simple ways you can help. Drop off a gift card to a place you know your loved one likes to food shop, or even stock up on groceries yourself and deliver them to their door. Grab your vacuum cleaner and head over to help them spruce up their home. Cook and deliver some meals that can be frozen. Think about the tasks that you do on a daily basis around your home and figure out ways to assist your loved one with those responsibilities. Importantly, don’t wait to be asked: Just show up and get to work.
Be a good listener: Sometimes a person facing an illness like cancer may just need to simply talk. The anxiety that often arises during cancer treatment can be debilitating, and unloading that burden may relieve some pressure. When a loved one signals he or she is eager to talk, commit yourself to not just hearing, but really listening.
Whether it’s your parent, spouse, friend or neighbor, when a loved one is battling cancer, it’s essential for supporters to be present and aware in order to be genuinely supportive. It may take some strength, solidarity and maybe even a little creativity, but that work can be lifesaving for a patient in need.