When someone you know receives a cancer diagnosis, you want to help. But how?
Instead of asking what you can do to help, it’s usually better to
find a concrete way to support your friend or loved one, and do it.
Some people may not feel comfortable asking for help, or the list of
things they need help with may seem too long and overwhelming.
But what can you do that will actually be helpful? We asked our
Facebook community to share helpful things friends and family members
have done to support them. Here are their suggestions.
- Take care of the grocery shopping, or order groceries online
and have them delivered.
- Help keep their
household running. Cook, clean, mow the lawn, wash the laundry
and/or dishes, make sure the bills get paid, get the kids dressed
for school, walk the dog and do all of the things that the person in
cancer treatment would normally do to keep life going for the rest
of the family.
- Bring a cup of tea or coffee
and stop by for a visit. Just keep in mind that cancer patients
often struggle with fatigue, so don’t stay too long – unless they
ask you to stay longer.
- Give the primary caregiver a break. Go to doctor’s appointments
in the caregiver’s place, help out with the kids or pets, organize medications, or send the patient’s
spouse, parent or child off for massage or a night or weekend to
unwind. This can ease the caregiver’s stress, and give him or her
the energy to keep going.
- Drive the patient
to appointments. And when treatment is over, drive them to checkups
and scans. They may not show it, but cancer patients often have a
lot of anxiety about these appointments even years after treatment.
A friendly face and someone to talk to can make a big
- Take notes during appointments or
when the doctor or nurse stops by in the hospital. Patients’ memories can be foggy during and after
treatment, and the amount of information they receive can be
overwhelming. Taking notes can ensure they have the information they
- Prepare meals or deliver takeout.
Even better: organize a bunch of friends and family to bring meals
for several days or weeks while the patient recovers.
- Take care of their children. Take them to school or sports
practice, help with homework, or have them over for a slumber party
or playdate. This can help take their minds off of cancer, and ease
their parents’ stress.
- Knit a cap or
- Pray. This gives many patients the
courage to face another day.
- Just sit with
them and listen. Don’t offer advice or recommendations unless asked.
Instead, listen to the patient’s concerns, acknowledge that cancer
sucks and offer a shoulder to cry on. And if the patient doesn’t
feel like talking, sit there with them quietly. There is a lot of
power in simply being present.
- Play music.
Whether you play an instrument, make a playlist or turn on some
tunes, music can help everyone relax and take their minds off
- Stay connected. Send texts, call,
email, cards, etc. Let them know you’re thinking of them.
- Give them a sack of gifts or cards, with
instructions to open one each morning. This is a great way to help
someone to get out of bed and brighten their day.
- Send fun or silly treats in the mail.
- Visit them in the hospital. Days can seem very long when you’re
hospitalized, and a short visit from a friend or family member can
make a big difference.
- Remember that most
cancer patients don’t want to be treated differently just because
they have cancer. Talk to your friend or loved one like you did
before. Tell jokes, talk about what’s going on in the neighborhood
or at your kids’ school, favorite TV shows, etc. This can briefly
help take patients’ minds off of cancer.
them laugh. Tell jokes. Share funny videos. Laughter really is good
- Find ways to motivate them to do
what they need to do to get better, whether that’s doing their
exercises for rehab, taking medications or eating more.
However you decide to help, remember: any love and support you
provide can make a big difference, whether it cheers the patient up,
or frees up their time and energy so that they can focus on job No. 1:
healing and getting back to living life.
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