How to Care for Someone Fighting Cancer

Many people who fight cancer will say that one of the hardest parts of their health journey is watching family and friends worry for them. People who fight cancer are brave, so they may try to do things on their own to comfort us. But they don’t have to. So, we put together a list of helpful ideas to navigate supporting our loved ones as they start or continue through their journey.

It is important to note that instead of putting pressure on a cancer patient by asking what we can do, we should just offer specific things, and do them. When we get started on helping, feelings of guilt can creep in and we may feel we may not do things perfectly or in the ways that they are used to. But that doesn’t equate to the amount of love they will feel. Simple, honest intentions that come from the heart always mean so much:

Make or bring food. A warm, delicious meal can go a long way in regards to comfort and relief. Not having to cook on a day that a cancer patient feels particularly ill or too down to step in the kitchen can mean the world. A lot of time meals can be kept and spread into several portions of leftovers or feed the entire household, which may relieve a lot of stress for those who have been diagnosed, not to mention their families. Be sure to ask if they have any aversions or allergies to certain foods or ingredients. If cooking or baking isn’t in your toolbox, ask where their favorite place to eat is and order their favorite meal for them.

Do the house chores and everyday errands. When you’re visiting them, clean around their house and help put things together. Do the yard work, walk the dog, make some lemonade or coffee. While you’re out running your own errands, like picking up groceries or dry cleaning, pick up things for them, too, and put it where it belongs when you get to their home right away so they don’t have to. The place they come home to after treatment should be comfortable and restful, as it will be a direct reflection of their energy.

Send an uplifting or funny text, e-mail, or card. Even a simple message can go a long way. Leave plenty of space for normal conversation, too. If they open up about something regarding their cancer, be a good listener and match their tone when expressing their emotions. Don’t center conversations on how you can relate, your experiences, or your advice. Keep the topic about them and what they are experiencing.

Offer to be their chemo buddy and medical advocate. Drive them to and from their treatment, offer to sit and stay with them, and become an extra set of ears and eyes at appointments. Take notes for them and share what you heard and remind them of what was said. Don’t make the day about their chemo appointment: If they’re up for it, offer to take them on an extra trip that won’t be much effort, like driving past a sight nearby or taking them to a new bakery for a treat.

Plan fun activities that give them a chance at normalcy. Keep showing your support by keeping them in your plans. Take a nice walk together, plan an at-home spa day or movie night, bring a craft you can do together. Invite them to a game night, coffee, or lunch with other friends when you get the chance.

Gather donations for a benefit in their name and advocate for their disease. Help aide in the education, care, and fight by setting up a Go Fund Me page in their name or directing funds to an organization centered on the care or treatment of cancer patients. No one wants to ask for money, but it always helps, especially when the inevitable costs of treatment can sometimes be unexpected and long-lasting.

Follow and support their social media pages and blogs. If they decide to share their journey this way, become an avid supporter. Comment, like, and share their posts and keep it positive. Advocate for their story and help their voice to be heard. Get other friends involved in following them for their example of inspiration and strength.

Connect them with others who have survived or are fighting the same battles. Get them involved in a support group geared toward their needs and experiences. Facebook, Reddit, and other sites have many of these online, which may be safest during the pandemic. Find a peaceful place for them to share their feelings and find resourceful advice from those going through similar things. Alternately, look up counselors in the area that specialize in health and wellness therapy. There are counselors who specialize in chronic and acute health conditions that may offer a listening ear and the right advice for their cancer journey.

Even a little bit of help goes a long way, and sometimes the smallest actions mean can mean the most. We can be there for a cancer patient in our life in whatever ways we can to ensure they’re not alone, and commit to their fight alongside them. We may never know how much it could mean to our loved one fighting cancer.