Four Ways You Can be a Great Friend to a Cancer Patient

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Each year, cancer claims the lives of half a million Americans. It is the second leading cause of death in the United States– second only to heart disease. Getting a cancer diagnoses can feel like a death sentence, but advancements in medical oncology have prolonged and improved the lives of cancer patients more than ever before.

If you know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, showing your support for them can make a huge difference in their treatment and quality of life. Many compassionate cancer specialists and cancer survivors say that having a strong support network is an essential factor in a successful cancer care plan. Here are some ways to support a loved one going through cancer treatment:

  1. Let them know you care. Send short notes of support and make a quick phone call to check on them regularly, so that they know they’re not forgotten. Ask open-ended questions, giving the patient the opportunity to work out their own emotions (and let them know it’s okay if they don’t want to talk about their situation). If they have a spouse, sibling, or parent who acts as their care giver, make sure to check on them as well. Being a care giver to a loved one with cancer can be an extremely draining role.
  2. Make visits a priority. Cancer treatment can be a lonely road, especially for a patient without family. Making a short visit either to the medical oncology unit, or to the patient’s home if they’re receiving outpatient care, can make an enormous difference in their outlook. Always make sure to call before you visit and be understanding if the patient isn’t up for visitors. Sometimes even if a cancer patient doesn’t feel like talking, having a person sitting with them can be a great source of comfort. It’s also nice to coordinate with the care giver when you can come, so that they can take the time away to refresh themselves.
  3. Take care of their non-essential lives. Running errands for the cancer patient or their care giver is a source of support that is often forgotten. Many medical oncology therapists suggest scheduling a reoccurring errand that the patient can rely on. Here are a few suggestions:
    • Offer to clean their house every few weeks.
    • Do their grocery shopping once a week.
    • Perform their lawn upkeep.
    • Make regular trips to the library to keep both the patient and care giver stocked with books to read in the down time.
  4. Put together care packages. Even if your friend battling cancer is not local, you can still provide support through small, uplifting gifts. It’s nice to send small gifts frequently, than one large gift once. A few small gifts that are useful to cancer patients include:
    • Warm, cheerful socks or a small, cozy blanket that can be taken to chemotherapy sessions.
    • Entertainment such as classic movies or soothing music.
    • Lemon drops or ginger tea to combat nausea associated with cancer treatments.
    • Homemade cards that encourage the patient.

Do you have any other great suggestions for showing support for a friend battling cancer? Please share it with us in the comment section below.

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