How to React to and Help a Loved One with Cancer

by katiem2

Dealing with cancer? Learn how to react, treat and care for a loved one when you learn they have cancer, during treatment and when facing possible terminal diagnosis.

It's highly likely most all of us have experienced the reality of a cancer learning either a friend or family member has been diagnosed. It's shocking when they first hear the shocking news so much so they go for a period of time before they can utter the words to anyone in their inner circle. First and foremost never say, "Why didn't you tell me sooner" as the hardest part of being diagnosed with cancer for most is telling those they love.

The Cancer Helper

Many find it easier to both cope and focus on the course of treatment ahead without the emotional response from loved ones. Keeping it a silent is an attempt to stay positive giving no life to the cancer allowing the patient to stay in a zone. The zone is a frame of mind gearing up for the fight. The act of saying the words out loud may break the emotional damn allowing for sadness and fear to set in which is not what anyone gearing up to battle cancer wants to happen. If someone you love has kept a cancer diagnosis from you don't take it personally rather consider what you've just learned about the journey of treatment and healing. First and foremost move on to the person closest to them to determine your best course of action to help and support those you care about.

Don't Avoid A Friend with Cancer

The last thing anyone should do is avoid someone or treat anyone with cancer different.

Those with cancer may find their personal hiding place and while they need their privacy and space there is a place and role for you in this fight as well. 

Be a Silent Partner

Be humble waiting quietly to do anything needed when the time comes and it will.

The best things we can do for loved ones, friends and family with living with cancer is to act immediately don’t avoid them or treat them differently than you typically would. Step in and take action, read this entirely for many ways to do that without making the friend feel bad. 

When Cancer Patients Withdraw

People with Cancer Tend to Fall Below the Social Radar.

One of the worst feelings a cancer patient may experience is being cut off from life as they once knew it with the fear of losing themselves and their life before they've even begun to fight.

It may seem friends and loved ones facing cancer are in denial or withdrawn and yet honestly it's often the best most healthy way to cope. They are merely exhausted both mentally and physically unable to maintain their normal routine or personality.

Most people need to focus on anything other than the cancer. While in the background they are dealing with it, the treatments and doctor’s appointments they need a distraction, a sense of normalcy. 

Talking About Cancer

The topic of conversation with cancer patients does not need to be about cancer.

There is no need to say anything about the cancer. Your friend will bring it up if and when they want until then you can simply say “I'm here if you want to talk about it otherwise I'll continue to simply be your friend, be here and enjoy life as you can and want”. 

Maintain Normalicy When Facing Cancer

The shock of cancer easily alters the life of all those involved.

A sense of the everyday normal helps to ground the person just diagnosed and those who love them. The reminders of what they love about life helps them concentrate on maintaining the life and people they love doing everything possible to beat it. 

How to Help Someone With Cancer

If there is someone in your life struggling with cancer renew the relationship.

There are people in our lives we care a great deal about and yet life has a way of putting gaps of time in the path of the relationship.

If you learn such a person has cancer you no doubt want to do something to reach out and help.

It's hard to know what to do and for this reason many step back and remain out of the picture.

Anyone facing cancer needs a network of quiet supporters who go about life as usual. The best thing for you to do is to renew and restore the relationship.

Create a Contact List

Establish a contact person close to the friend or loved one with cancer.

Establish the best person to contact other than the patient, if they don't seem receptive, not giving up until you gain contact and a line of communication. People need help during chemo and or radiation treatments. They won't ask but need it.

Call or drop by to let them know you're here for them. Give them your phone numbers, having already written your name, phone numbers, address and email for them to contact you. Add a list of things your available to help with.

The example to the right is the perfect gift for adding all contact information and a help list

A Cancer Contact Book

Write the person you want to reach out to a note.

Create a contact book adding your contact information and a list of things you're available to help them with. It's important to make the list as the cancer patient will be distracted with treatments working hard to get to them and through them. Those struggling with any kind of cancer don't know what to ask for.

Those involved are so overwhelmed with the cancer and how it has changed their normal routine they fight to maintain their own schedule and well-being. Giving a contact book is a great way to help. They can refer to this book and contact you for things on your list and also add others information to it when they visit by simply offering it to them when they ask what they can do. They will follow your lead.

This shouldn't be an address book or other in alphabetical order yet a simple journal with you filling in the first page. This gives others a first hand example right at their fingertips. They will then follow your lead adding their contact information and help list to the following page creating a powerful resource of help when needed.

Make Others Aware of Cancer

Let anyone and everyone you know cares about this person that they have received a cancer diagnosis.

Call anyone and everyone you know who also cares for this person telling them what's going on.

Let them know about the contact book and encourage them to visit offering to add their information to the contact book.

How to Drop by or Call to Help


Make sure the significant other, children or spouse living with the person dealing with their diagnosis know you have created this book, what it looks like and where it is, explaining to them the plan of action behind the book.

Best case scenario, show this person or persons the book.

Create a Cancer Help Network

The most important thing you can do is to make yourself available anytime you are needed

Establishing the Best Contact Person

Show this person the book as they may be the best way to fill the book without overwhelming the person about to experience weeks, months or possibly years of treatment.

Establish the significant caregiver as the contact person getting their contact information to share with those who want to help to insure they get their information added to the list.

Also let those you call know to contact the go to person if they can't reach the friend with cancer.

Cancer Help Ideas

A List of Helpful things Useful to Those Fighting Cancer

Helpful Things You Can Do to Help - This is a list of useful things you can volunteer to do adding the list to your contact page including times and day’s best for you also indicating if you want to be on the round the clock contact list as well.

Don't Wait! Get involved the minute you hear of the friend with cancer.

10 Things Friends Can do to Help

There are so many things you can do to help a friend and their family when cancer becomes a part of their daily routine.

The Cancer Help List

  1. Run errands, shopping, or carpool kids.
  2. Late night food run for cravings be it a cheeseburger and fries or a watermelon.
  3. Cook bringing food, drinks and groceries.
  4. Yard work and or take out the trash.
  5. Bring the mail up to the house daily.
  6. Maintain the car, fuel up, check fluids, air pressure in tires etc.
  7. Come over to set with friend/cancer patient, read, bring movies or books on tape etc.
  8. Call to chat with the friend talking to them as you would before the diagnosis.
  9. Take the kids out for dinner; bring them to your house for play dates etc.
  10. Water plants, dust, vacuum, wash dishes, do laundry, make beds etc.

What Those With Cancer Want

Share your experiences with either having cancer yourself or a loved one with it and what you found to be helpful and appreciated

No, But I had a loved one with cancer and did this to help;
dustytoes on 04/26/2013

A neighbor of mine had discovered she had cancer and I ordered a free recipe book for people with cancer to give to her and she totally loved the fact that I had done that for her. Even small things that show you care can mean a lot.

Yes, I've had cancer and found it very helpful when people;
Tracy on 04/27/2015

My best friend that will drop everything to come and hold my hand and let me cry. No explanation needed. My husband for understanding my mood swings and moments of grief AND anger. Mostly they are just here. In the moment with me. We don't need to talk but I always know they are here.

MsRita on 04/23/2015

I remember when I had cancer those that did something even when they didn’t know what to do.....

Jen on 04/02/2015

When I had surgery for cancer my biggest concern was for my husband and 3 young boys. Our friends started a food chain on Facebook making sure my family had meals dropped off for two weeks while I was recovering. Not having to worry about my family being taken care of was such a relief and gave me peice if mind and the strength to recover knowing that they were being taken care of.

Updated: 05/25/2013, katiem2
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Talk about loved ones with cancer and what you can do to help.

katiem2 on 07/22/2013

AnomalousArtist, It is a hard topic and yet we have to dive in as it's far worse to let someone go though it feeling those closet to them don't care about them as they thought they did or worse yet pass away feeling unloved and as if their life had little meaning leaving little impression or a mark.

AnomalousArtist on 07/21/2013

What a great article to share...I remember reading Gilda Radner's book and even Gene Wilder was confused about what to "do" with a loved one who is sick. Tough issue, thanks for approaching it!

katiem2 on 04/11/2013

pawpaw, Well said, very good advice, thank you for sharing your personal experience.

pawpaw on 04/11/2013

Very important information. Having been through it, with a family member, it is important that they know that they aren't in it alone. The main thing is to be there when, and if needed.

katiem2 on 04/01/2013

ologsinquito, A great way to help anyone with cancer.

ologsinquito on 04/01/2013

Katie, I start praying when I find out someone has cancer, that they may be led to seek the right treatments for their conditions. Unfortunately, cancer seems to be an epidemic right now.

You might also like

How to Find Peace and Be at Peace

Peace is the guide to what life has in store for us, using peace as a guide t...

How to Detox

We all need to detox our bodies on a regular basis. Learn the easiest way to ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...