Cancer affects way more people than the person who receives the diagnosis. It affects their family members and friends as well. Depending on the nature of the diagnosis, it can feel like either a moderate bump in the road or a major roadblock that may not be solvable. When someone we love gets cancer, we may feel helpless, angry, sad, or all of the above. All of those feelings are normal. The patient may feel like they’re losing control of their body, and the patient’s loved ones may also experience a loss of control, albeit one that doesn’t require them to go to chemotherapy treatments and worry about throwing up constantly. The best way to get through this involves a few different things.
Offer support (but not too much)
There are a lot of options to think over once someone is diagnosed with cancer. The biggest one is about where to get treatment. Their diagnosing physician may suggest seeking cancer care at a chain like Regional Cancer Care that’s capable of treating a variety of cancer types, or they may suggest heading to a place that specializes in treating one specific type of cancer. A lot depends on where the patient is located and what kind of transportation options they have available. Some places offer medical transport shuttles to patients in need. If your family member needs a ride to treatment and back, you can be a huge help by offering to take them even one day a week, or even every other week. Give what you can without over-committing yourself or double-booking your schedule.
Let’s say your sister-in-law is getting treatment for breast cancer at New Jersey Breast Cancer in Edison, NJ. However, doing so requires her to drive 40 minutes from her house in Hopewell. You, however, live just five minutes from the treatment center in Edison. In cases like that, ask her what she needs from you. That may be a ride to and from the facility, or she may just want to go to your house to rest for an hour or two after treatment. She may have transportation covered and ask that you just come sit with them during treatment and distract her with card games or board games. Let her take the lead whenever possible. You can offer a specific type of help, but don’t get mad or offended if she declines. Remember that this isn’t about you. Instead, it’s about helping your loved one get better and staying as emotionally healthy as possible.
Cancer treatment can take months or even years. It can start and stop and then start again. The process can be extremely frustrating for the patient, which means it can be really nice to celebrate milestones. If their six-month checkup shows that they’re still in remission, then buy them a cake or take them out to dinner (assuming you know they would be OK with the attention). The bad days mean it’s especially important to celebrate good news. If a patient gets to remission, they’ll usually require checkups every so often to make sure the disease hasn’t returned. Those appointments are usually incredibly stressful, so any distraction you can provide around that time will probably be welcome. It may be something as simple as telling them a few corny jokes to make them laugh.