How to Help a Friend or Family Member Who has been Diagnosed with Cancer

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Shari Pack
Joined: 10/16/2012

When someone you care about has been diagnosed with cancer and in for the battle of their life, it can leave you feeling helpless since the situation is beyond your control. There are however, certain things that you can do or say to help the loved one stay positive and strong during their ordeal. Having been a cancer patient and a caregiver to a family member and friend diagnosed with cancer, I have learned how words and actions can help or even hurt someone who is going through this traumatic experience.

Here are a few suggestions on what I found to be helpful and what I preferred that people did not do:


  •  Send a card, text or email every so often to let the person know that you are thinking about them. Sometimes it’s hard for the person to gather up the energy to talk on the phone.
  • Occasionally bring over some food. Perhaps soup, a casserole, or even bring over your NutriBullet and prepare a delicious NutriBlast as a healthy treat.
  •  Offer to do a task around the house. The last thing a cancer patient wants to do is sweep their floors or vacuum.
  •  Offer to babysit or take care of their animals so they can enjoy some time out of the house.
  •  Offer to take the cancer patient to a treatment.
  •  Be patient with the person and allow them to feel sad, scared and grouchy.

These are just a few really nice gestures that a cancer patient and caregiver would appreciate.

While certainly it is never anyone’s intention to hurt a cancer pateints feelings, please keep in mind that they most likely extra sensitive and emotional due to the trauma of the experience and also all of the medications. Here are a few recommendations on the “not so great to do or say” list:


  •  Avoid being negative. This sounds obvious, but during my treatment, I cannot tell you how many people made comments to me about losing other friends and family members to cancer or know of people whose cancer returned soon after their treatment. A cancer patient does not need to hear about other people losing their battle with cancer.
  •  Try not to comment on the cancer patient’s appearance. They are well aware of how much weight they've lost or gained and that they are pale, etc. – Yes, this is very common occurrence.
  •  Avoid putting pressure on the person. It’s hard to make plans because they do not know how they are going to feel from one hour to the next. Side effects are unpredictable.
  •  Unless you have been through a similar situation, limit your assurances that you know or can imagine how they feel.


Fantastic, Shari. These seem like such common sense tips, but in those circumstances, sometimes loved ones just don't know what to do or how to help. Insightful, as always.
Great list of suggestions! Thank you for sharing Shari!
Great suggestions! WallyGreat suggestions! Wally Bishop C.N.C.