When a Loved One Has Cancer

Learning that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer can be one of the most devastating things that a family can face. It is easy to feel helpless when this happens, and it is often hard to know exactly what you can do to best support your loved one.

Here are some tips for dealing with this crisis. Just add a good dose of love and devotion to make the ordeal less difficult for everyone.

Don't Panic

It is hard not to panic when a loved one becomes ill, but you need to be strong for that person. The patient will be scared and confused (even behind a possibly stoic exterior), and so he or she will need you to be reassuring and optimistic.

Spread hope and be supportive. Your calm and positive vibes will comfort your loved one.

Don't Try Too Hard

While your loved one needs your support now more than ever, try not to be overbearing. Don't smother the patient with concern and offers of help. Let the patient know that you are there, make sure that his or her basic needs are met, but do not dote. It is important to let the patient maintain his or her dignity while ill.

Build a Support Network

When a loved one has cancer, that person's needs will change. Even the most independent people find that they have to rely on loved ones from time to time to get through the treatments and the disease itself.

Organize your family and friends to share the burden. Not only will this ensure that the patient has plenty of help, but you will all benefit from supporting each other through this difficult time.

Be Dependable

Even though other family members and friends may be helping to care for your loved one, never stop giving the best possible care that you can provide. Some patients find themselves worrying that they will be too great a burden, and that their family and friends will abandon them when the care they need becomes too demanding. Worse, sometimes they fear that they might die alone.

Your loved one needs to know that you are there for the long haul. Even if it is not your day or your week to care for that person, a quick phone call or e-mail can provide the reassurance that every patient needs.

Be Smart

Dealing with cancer is scary for everyone involved, but you need to be smart and rational. Talk with the doctors, research the patient's specific condition, and learn about the various treatment options, side effects, and other factors.

By arming yourself with knowledge, you can help your loved one make difficult treatment decisions and ensure the best possible outcome.

Be Practical

While your loved one is ill, some routine day-to-day tasks might be overlooked. You can help immensely by making sure that the patient's monthly bills get paid, that meals are taken care of, and that transportation is arranged for medical appointments. This will leave the patient free to devote his or her energy to getting well and dealing with the emotional effects of the ordeal.

Also do everything possible to ensure that your loved one's affairs are in order, with a current will, living will, and medical proxies as appropriate. This will take some pressure off of everyone if the unthinkable happens and the condition takes a bad turn.

Never Give Up

Even if your loved one's prognosis is grim, never give up hope. Many people have been told by their doctors that they have three or six months to live, only to go on to live for a year, two years, or longer.

Surround your loved one with friends and family, and make the most of every minute of every day. Be upbeat and positive.

Remember that love truly can conquer all.

author: Mary Shaw

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