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Dealing with Cancer: 6 Steps for Helping Your Loved One in Their Time of Need

By Margaret Manning September 19, 2013 Family

Finding out that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer can make it feel like the world is crashing down around you. Dr. Phil says, “When one person gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer.” As hard as it is for you, imagine how your loved one feels dealing with cancer. Keeping this in mind may help you provide more compassionate support. It’s okay to be afraid. Do research, ask questions, and offer your assistance where you can.

How to Start Dealing with Cancer

When you find out your family member is going to be dealing with cancer, there are several things you can do to help them. The first step to compassionate and effective help is your own acceptance. It’s like putting on the mask in an airplane before offering it to another. Join a cancer support group and see how others are approaching acceptance and support.

Be Present to Reduce the Stress of Your Loved One

Cancer patients are usually emotionally overwhelmed and frightened after finding out their condition and all that is to come. So being able to share in the experience and reduce their stress should be a priority. Go to their beginning appointments with them.

Make a list of questions and concerns beforehand, so you don’t forget anything important. Just being physically present will alleviate some stress.

Listen and Communicate During Cancer Treatment

Listen. Keep the lines of communication open. Address fears and challenges as they arise. Talk through what lies ahead and help them prepare mentally and emotionally for it. Discuss physical changes that will take place while going through treatment and come up with action plans to respond. This will help to lessen fears and reassure them that they are not alone.

Create a Solid Support System and Work as a Team

Assist your family member in creating a solid support group to help them endure this process. Create a list of needs and allow everyone contribute something. Cooking, cleaning, going to appointments, picking up prescriptions, and just spending quality time together when they’re up for it can all demonstrate love and concern.

The patient will feel they have a team behind them, and support members will feel less helpless when they have something to do.

Dealing with Cancer Is Hard Enough, Don’t Do it Alone

Dealing with cancer is a group effort; show your loved one the resources available in the community. There are many support groups as well as online resources like caringbridge.org to help your family member get through this difficult time. Caring Bridge is an “online space where you can connect, share news, and receive support, health and social networking coming together.”

Make Yourself Aware of the Five Stages of Grief

Lastly make yourself familiar with cancer patients’ five stages of grief developed by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Understanding the five stages gives you an idea of what your loved one is going through so you can be prepared and able to help. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Be aware that they are not linear, and may come more as waves than clearly defined stages.

It takes a village to get the ones we love through something as scary as dealing with cancer. With a little communication and a plan you can help your family member get through this tough time with less stress. Use these six steps as a road map of success in finding your way through cancer to recovery.

Has someone in your family had cancer? What advice would you give to the other members of the community who may be facing a similar situation? Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at margaret@sixtyandme.com

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