When a Loved One Has Cancer: The Do's and Don'ts (Infographic)
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When a Loved One Has Cancer: The Do's and Don'ts (Infographic)

Step-by-step guide to talking to your loved one about Cancer.

Learning a loved one has cancer can be devastating. It can become difficult to find the right words, especially as we face our fears that come with a cancer diagnosis. Often, family and friends are desperate to help, but get so caught up worrying about saying and doing the right thing it leaves their loved one feeling alone.

There is no exact science to coping with a cancer diagnosis, and feelings of anger, sadness and helplessness are bound to overwhelm both cancer patients and their loved ones. From conversations surrounding treatment to helping meet the needs of those affected, our guide is here to help you feel more comfortable in supporting your loved one through their battle with cancer.

Talking about cancer with your loved one.

Your loved one is scared too.

Do: Stay positive and let your loved one initiate any conversation about their feelings.

Don’t: Focus on your fears when an emotional conversation does occur.

Being diagnosed with cancer brings to light many fears that are often difficult to discuss. Both patients and their loved ones will go through differing fears upon diagnosis, so it is important to show support however possible. When an individual feels the need to talk about their fears of a cancer diagnosis, open yourself up to the conversation. Be conscious to not unload your personal fears in the conversation. They are battling a disease that is both mental and physical and should not have to take on yours, too. Try to stay positive for both your sake and your loved one’s.

Remember positive thinking helps to benefit individuals both mentally and physically. Researchers continue to explore the effects of how positive thinking effects for our overall health. One theory behind positive thinking is that it helps individuals to cope with stressful situations. Having the ability to deal with stressful situations reduces the negative health effects that stress brings. Start practicing positive thinking for both you and your loved ones for a happier and healthier tomorrow.

Cancer changes things, but your relationship doesn’t have to.

Do: Try to maintain normal conversation and activities when it feels right.
Don’t: Always have conversations that only focus on cancer and how cancer is doing.

It’s important to remember to treat your loved ones as you would have before any diagnosis. The conversations should not always focus on cancer and how cancer is doing, but more on the lines of how they are doing as a whole. Instead of asking questions like, “How can I help?” offer something more specific like, “I’ll be over this week to take care of yard work.” Additionally, try to maintain routine activities, like yoga class on Wednesdays or family game night on Sundays, to keep some consistency in your loved one’s life.

Whenever possible, try to be the positive light in this otherwise dark time. When trying to convey positivity, a saying that we often gravitate towards is, “You will be fine.” However, this might come across as insensitive. Instead, focus on milestones he or she has overcome, specific feedback from the doctor or character traits like his or her strong-willed mindset.

Discuss the cancer diagnosis on their terms.

Do: Talk through cancer diagnosis and treatment together when your loved one feels comfortable.
Don’t: Force conversations surrounding their diagnosis.

A cancer diagnosis affects everyone involved. Talking about the diagnosis is one of the many ways to process this uncharted territory for both you and your loved one. If they’re open and wanting to discuss the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, this is a great way for the two of you to work through your feelings and fears.

Keep in mind that some individuals may take longer to open up to conversation. If the door seems closed, don’t pry, but do wait and listen for the ideal time to talk things through.

Support each other, even when emotions get heavy.

Do: Be a shoulder to lean on when times are tough.
Don’t: Join in on any negative thoughts.

More often than not, things will be tough both physically and mentally for your loved one with cancer. This is the time to be a light in their eyes and a shoulder to lean on. Take the time to simply listen and understand where your support is needed most. One thing to consider when discussing any cancer diagnosis, is the realities involved. This involves conversations that will be challenging on either side of the diagnosis.

Continue a positive thought process, but don’t forget to plan your future both together and apart. Doing this ahead of time to lessen the stresses for both parties. By working through these challenges together, you’re able to support each other when you need it most.

Time alone is just as important as time spent together.

Do: Give yourself time apart.
Don’t: Think you need to spend every waking moment together

Just because someone wants to spend time alone does not mean there’s any cause for concern. Everyone needs time to process their feelings without influence of others around them. Give your loved ones the space they need to work things through alone. In the end, one of the best things you can do for your loved one, is to simply be there for them when they need it, while giving them the space they desire, at the same time.

Coping with cancer is challenging for everyone involved.

Do: Reach out and seek support.
Don’t: Go at it alone.

The treatment of cancer is both physically and mentally trying for both patients and their families. Ensure you’re seeking the care that both of you need from medical professionals and support groups. Whatever you do, don’t act like you’re in it alone. There is always someone to talk to, that’s been in your shoes before, that is available to help. Whether you’re looking for support groups to go to together, or alone, the options are out there and ready to help you through any issues you’re struggling with.

Forgive each other.

Do: Forgive each other for any mistakes made along the way.
Don’t: Assume you will both always say and do the “right” thing - we all make mistakes, but don’t wait to forgive one another.

A cancer diagnosis brings more than enough psychological hardship to last a lifetime. In addition to the emotional stress brought on by cancer, there’s also the physical strain that treatment brings. This overwhelming time may lead individuals to be rude, short and hurtful to those they love most. It can also be on the side of the caregiver as well. If the stress causes regretful conversations or outbursts, just remember to forgive one another. At the end of the day, you’re still family or friends, and that’s all that matters.

UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital

UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s Hospital and Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center patients will soon be able to receive all of their cancer treatment, including radiation therapy from one health care provider – completing the full continuum of care. The new Radiation Center will house a TrueBeam™ Linear Accelerator, the most advanced radiation technology to treat cancers anywhere in the body. The Center will be located in a freestanding facility adjacent to Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa Medical Pavilion and the Community Cancer Center. St. Luke’s freestanding radiation program will offer significantly lower costs for patients than those who receive radiation treatment within a hospital setting.

UnityPoint Health - Finley Hospital

The Wendt Regional Cancer Center at UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital is the leader in cancer care by providing expert services and state-of-the-art technologies to several counties in the tri-state area. The Wendt Regional Cancer Center is also the only provider of radiation therapy in the Dubuque area. Finley’s Nurse Navigator will help patients and families understand the diagnosis and treatment plan. The Nurse Navigator will also serve as a care coordinator, educator, counselor for patients and families understanding that each patient's needs are highly individualized.