How to Support a Loved One Through Cancer Treatment

A couple hugging each other in support

by Catherine, June 18, 2021

A cancer diagnosis doesn’t just affect an individual, it can sweep friends, loved ones, and family members into a tornado of distress. While this devastating news is without a doubt earth-shattering for the recently diagnosed individual, those close to them can also feel completely lost on how to handle the situation. 

If you have a friend, family member, or loved one who has just been diagnosed with cancer, just know it is completely normal to be experiencing these intense emotions. Navigating the world of cancer can be challenging to comprehend, but the sooner you educate yourself on how to be the ultimate supporter, the faster you’ll be able to make an impact on your loved one’s cancer journey.

If you're looking for tips on how to start supporting a cancer patient, you have come to the right place. In this article, we are going to teach you how to support someone going through chemo, what to say to them, and how to provide emotional support during this incredibly challenging time of their life.

Supporting a Friend With Cancer: What You Need to Know

Before we get started, it’s important for you to know that there are no clear guidelines or set of rules to follow. Remember, everyone has a different cancer journey which means everyone will need to be supported in unique ways that are specific to them. By using this article as a guide, you’ll be able to adapt these tips and provide your loved one with personalized support whenever they need it. 

Give Yourself Time to Come to Terms With Reality

Before you try to provide support for your friend or loved one, give yourself some time to process this new information. Everyone handles cancer differently and you may have a hard time seeing your once-healthy friend, partner, or parent going into the hospital for cancer treatment. If you want to help the cancer patient in your life through this difficult time, make sure you first cope with your own emotions before lending a helping hand. That way your emotions won’t get in the way when it’s time to shift your focus to the one that needs it the most.

Educate Yourself On Their Diagnosis

If your friend or family member is emotionally strong enough, ask them about their diagnosis so you can better care for them. However, keep in mind that the majority of cancer patients are in an extremely fragile state right when they are diagnosed and may not want to talk about it. If that’s the case, see if you can talk to one of their family members to understand the diagnosis in greater detail.

Come From a Place of Empathy

We all know what it’s like to feel sick. You’re tired, physically and mentally drained, and all you want is to be cured of your ailment. Now magnify that feeling times a thousand. This may be the most devastating news your friend or family member has experienced in their lifetime, especially when we talk about young adults. Put yourself in their shoes when deciding how to interact with them. Sometimes, limited conversation and just being in their presence is all they will want while other times they may ask for your opinion or support in other ways. Whether you are just providing emotional support or you’re playing more of a caregiver role, make sure they always know that you will be there every step of the way.

Show Your Support By Showing Up For Them

As said before, sometimes all a cancer patient wants is to just be in the presence of the people they love. Those who receive extra emotional support during cancer treatment can better face the new life changes that are surfacing. Before showing up at your friend’s home, be sure to ask permission to see them. Cancer treatment can make an individual feel insecure, exhausted, and completely drained of all energy. If your friend is not in the mood for visitors and prefers to rest, be flexible with your plans. When you are together, let your friend know that it is okay to be vulnerable and open about anything they need to talk about. On the same token, do not offer your advice on what they should do unless they ask for it, especially if you’ve never had cancer yourself. What you can do, however, is serve as a friendly, loving, and empathetic presence. 

Set Future Plans With Them

Whether you realize it or not, setting future plans is a great way to motivate your loved one with cancer to keep moving forward. Not only does this create a sense of purpose and drive, but it also gives them something to look forward to. This positive motivation can serve as a light of optimism for someone who is going through the grueling process of cancer treatment. As a supporter, try to find a balance between being optimistic and realistic. Of course, you want to be honest and open about the future but you also don’t want to paint a black picture of anxiety. On the other hand, being too optimistic can set unrealistic expectations. The best thing you can do is to help the individual visualize the future one to two years without cancer.

Discover Natural & Healthy Ways to Support Your Friend

In your free time, look up healthy activities that are beneficial for those going through cancer. Whether it’s cooking healthy meals together, going for long walks on the beach, or practicing meditation, try to incorporate fun and supportive activities into their daily routine. Not only can these lifestyle adjustments help support their immune system function, but they will also serve as a source of daily positivity for your friend as well. 

Offer Practical Help

Most people struggle to ask for help. While your friend is in cancer care, offer to drive them to a doctor’s appointment, watch their kids, make them dinner, or help with any household chores. While they may decline, they will greatly appreciate the helping hand. 

Find Local Cancer Support Groups in Your Area

One of the best ways to feel supported during cancer care treatment is to find a community of individuals who are going through similar challenges in life as you. With so many cancer support groups, it can be overwhelming for a cancer patient to pick one and attend. Help your friend or loved one find a support service that speaks specifically to them. You can also offer to go with them to their support group in the beginning until they feel more comfortable in their new environment. 

Wrapping Up

Don’t know how to help someone going through chemo or cancer treatment? Sometimes keeping it simple and just focusing on your relationship with them is all they need. Make sure they know that you will always be there to provide support at any moment of their cancer journey. 

As a cancer coach who has battled cancer myself, I know just how important it is to take an all-encompassing approach to your health. That’s why I offer a number of services to help cancer patients navigate this confusing time of their lives and come out on the other side stronger than ever.

To learn more about my coaching sessions, passion tests, and cancer groups, browse my website today!

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Catherine Schopfer's Avatar

catherine schopfer.

Catherine Schopfer defies outdated narratives around cancer that don’t serve anyone.

Instead, she offers a fresh perspective: cancer can be the springboard to your best life… If you learn the lessons that it’s here to teach you.

Through 1:1 coaching and support groups, Catherine guides cancer patients, survivors, and caretakers through a difficult time so they can emerge on the other side embracing life like never before.




Content on this website is not considered medical advice. Please see a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.

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