Sometimes the little things bring the most joy
When someone learns they have cancer, it’s not just a diagnosis, but a life-altering challenge that impacts them and their loved ones.
Patients are almost instantly flooded with emotions, imagining what they will face: Potentially treatments and appointments that can make for long days. There are also side effects that can accompany chemotherapy, radiation and other interventions and sometimes, something as routine as going up or down stairs can be a challenge.
Every cancer patient needs a team of family and friends to encourage and support them. While large gestures are meaningful, the things that often make the greatest impact in patients’ lives are seemingly small – daily behaviors to remind them they are not alone on their journey.Talk to them like a friend, not a patient.
After a diagnosis, it’s not uncommon for people from all areas of a patient’s life to start treating them like a patient. Instead of normal conversations, friends and family often start talking to patients as if they are fragile. Another common but well-meaning misstep is to self-diagnose them with information from extensive Google searches.
While it’s important to keep in mind what we say around cancer patients, there’s no reason to talk to them differently than before. Pro-tip: If you realize you‘ve been talking to them a lot about their diagnosis, bring up other things they enjoy and are passionate about.
On the flip side, if you don’t talk about their diagnosis at all because you’re worried they won’t want to have that conversation, take some time to sit down, ask them how they’re doing, and remind them that you’re always there to listen.
All of these are ways that show you care – the most important reassurance you can offer.Celebrate the little victories
Unfortunately, it’s all too common for little things we normally take for granted to become much more complicated after a cancer diagnosis. Take note of milestones the patient achieves during treatment or stumbling blocks they run into, and celebrate their victories. Having a nice dinner, organizing a small gathering, or just intentionally spending time with them are kind, mindful ways to show you care.Lead by example to encourage health improvements
This is a great time for friends and family to help their loved ones eat healthier and exercise more. How can you do this? Offering to help with meal planning and to go on walks together are more than creating healthy habits; these activities are also a form of bonding that you’ll both benefit from.Volunteer to help with routine tasks
Going to cancer treatments can be exhausting, especially multiple times a week. Volunteer to drive the patient to treatments and appointments.
Other helpful tasks include: wash dishes, doing laundry or making dinner. Being able to get off their feet and relax are important components of healing for cancer patients.
Disclaimer: It’s important to note that if you volunteer for a certain task, follow through and always have a backup if something unexpected comes up.Encourage them to join an art or meditation group
More and more, hospitals and nonprofits are prioritizing programs dedicated to increasing survivorship and enhancing patients’ quality of life. Many of these programs emphasize the importance of art and mediation, activities that focus on calming the mind to make the body feel at peace. These activities also offer patients a way to meet and build relationships with others who are dealing with cancer and who understand their specific struggles. Learn more about the Cancer Center’s free survivorship programs here.These are just a few of the countless “little” ways friends and family members can help people who are battling cancer feel special every day.
The biggest takeaway from these suggestions is to be present to your loved one’s needs and to remember that fighting cancer is more of a marathon than a sprint – don’t expect immediate results, but always remain hopeful for progress.
To learn about Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, visit www.marybird.org.