Five things to say when your loved one …


Five things to say when your loved one has cancer

April 21, 2017 | by Georgia Gables

A cancer diagnosis can impact the life of loved ones and family significantly, I know it affected mine.

While there are many challenges and hurdles along the way, knowing your role in the treatment and recovery of a loved one can go a long way towards improving quality of life and increasing the odds of long term survival. In fact, researchers have shown that a good support network of spouses, family and friends reduce the risk of recurrence by forty-eight per cent and increase survival odds significantly.

Discussing cancer can be both awkward and uncomfortable.

It is perfectly normal to experience a wide range of emotions. Common responses include depression, fear, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. A lot of it has to do with your own coping mechanisms.

It's important to have an honest dialogue about what is happening, but knowing what to say, and how to say it, is hard.


Listening to Your Loved One: How Do They Feel About Things?

Sometimes, it isn't about what you say.

One of the hardest things for a cancer patient to face from those around them is denial. You can't help if you pretend life is normal and refuse to talk about hard emotional issues. Cancer patients face a lot of emotional and physical challenges. Support often comes in the form of just listening, without judgement, to their fears and concerns.

It doesn't mean that you need to solve every issue they mention. Just being physically present can mean the world to someone struggling.


Being a Cheerleader: We Will Get Through It Together

While it's tempting to reassure your loved one they will be fine, this really doesn't offer them much in the way of support. Sometimes, no matter how often you say it, things are not going to be okay.

The reality is that cancer is scary.

A team approach can offer a lot in the way of assuring them that regardless of how hard it gets, they won't face it alone.

You can even attend a Look Good Feel Better workshop with them, find one near you.  

Don't let them get caught up in statistics. It's common to want to look for evidence that things are working in your favor, but every cancer patient's disease is as individual as they are.

The best place to go for information is the oncologist. Attend appointments and be a part of the treatment plan. You need to let them know that you will be there for them through pre-care, post-care, and through any additional breast cancer prognostics or recurrence testing.


Organizing Resources and Stress: What Do You Need?

Stress is a killer. Studies have shown that the various physiological responses related to stress increases the rate that cancer spreads. Learning healthy coping mechanisms can be beneficial for everyone. Yoga, meditation, and physical activity can be great for the entire family.

Another area that commonly causes stress is trying to meet the demands of daily living. Some cancer patients readily ask for help, while others don't.

Offer resources for them before they need to ask. The American Cancer Society or The Canadian Cancer Society has a wealth of free or low cost programs available with just a phone call.


Dealing With Setbacks and Bad News: Adjust Fire

Adjust Fire is an Army term used when the target location is wrong and adjustments are needed.

It applies to cancer treatment particularly well because invariably, there will be unexpected things that come up.

When you adjust fire, you have to accept that the situation isn't what you want or expect. While acceptance means acknowledging it can't be changed, it doesn't mean that there isn't a different course of action to pursue. Help your loved one keep perspective and adjust fire as needed.


Making a Negative Positive: Three Boobs Are Sitting In A Bar, Wait. What?

It seems like a cliche, but laughter really can be good for the soul.

In fact, studies show that it can be a powerful weapon during cancer treatment.

Of course, it may not be appropriate to make an outright joke, but certainly using gentle humor to shine a spotlight on the bright side can be an encouraging response.


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Georgia Gables

A survivor's perspective on breast cancer

Georgia Gables is a loving mother and a cancer survivor. She loves sharing her story and helping others through their own fight. Cancer doesn’t define you. Never, ever give up hope.