Article Submitted by Melissa Howard

A cancer diagnosis is devastating. It forces the patient to face their own mortality as well as what could be years of taxing physical treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation, and they cannot get through without hope, love, and support. That’s where you come in. Not only can you offer consolation, but you can also offer practical help to get them through their struggle.

Keep Yourself Healthy

You won’t be able to help at all if you are not in a good place yourself. That means staying mentally and physically healthy to get through the hard times with plenty of positive energy. You’ll need to eat right while getting enough exercise and plenty of sleep. Also, make sure to take time for yourself and do something relaxing. This need not be elaborate, and sometimes a nap or a warm bath is what you need to rejuvenate and get back on top of your emotions.

Research Their Diagnosis 

Caring for your loved one means knowing what you’re up against. There are many different types of cancer with varying degrees of severity, starting from stage 0, in which the tumor has not expanded to local tissue and the prognosis for full recovery is quite strong. The most serious is stage 4, in which the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, though treatment can still be effective in a large percentage of cases. Learn where your loved one is on this spectrum to understand what you need to do to help them.

Additionally, you can also spend time learning about the different symptoms that are specific to their type of cancer; for example, if they were diagnosed with acute leukemia, you can expect symptoms to include fatigue, infections, and recurring nosebleeds, to name a few. This can help you anticipate their needs going forward.

Tell Them You Care

Your loved one may not even know how much they mean to you. If they do, it could make the difference between having the strength to carry on and giving up. There is no one right thing to say, but there is a way to approach this important topic in a manner that expresses your true emotions while respecting the gravity of their situation. Think before you speak, follow their lead, and keep it about them, says the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. In fact, sometimes all you need to do is listen and say you’re there for them. 

Offer Some Practical Help

The diagnosis is a load to bear in itself, and then there’s the physical fatigue that comes from treatment, which can often leave them drained and unable to take care of themselves. They’ll need more than just emotional support. According to an expert with Everyday Health, you’ve got to be ready to run errands, take them to the doctor’s appointment, and lend a hand with chores around the house. Also, dust off that thinking cap and get ready to help them sort through the bills, as cancer treatment can be expensive.

Give the Right Gifts

A little something special can help them get through a difficult day, but be careful what you give them. Flowers seem appropriate, but they’re quite dangerous under the circumstances. Cancer and its treatments can compromise a patient’s immune system and leave them vulnerable to infection. Plus, there’s no need to remind them of mortality through the sight of a wilting plant. Instead, a day at the spa might be just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.

Keep an Eye on Them

Your overall role is to provide love and support, but sometimes that means being a little bit tough — or at least encouraging habits that keep their health up. Financial Review recommends getting them out of the house and into the sunshine for a bit of exercise. It’s also worth the effort to keep tabs on how many painkillers they’re taking, as opioid addiction is a real risk. In fact, one in eight cancer patients develop a dependency during treatment, according to one study.

With your help, your loved one will see things through, and you’ll have many tomorrows to enjoy together. Stay strong and keep hope in your heart. That’s the most important thing you can do.

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