Healthy Living

5 Ways to Support Someone with Cancer

Jul. 21, 2015
Someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer and you’re at a loss for ways to help them. UR Medicine oncology nurse Alicia Coffin shares these tips for offering your support. 
woman supporting friend who has cancer
  • Lend an ear: Listening is one of the most important things you can do. Allow the person to talk about their cancer, their diagnosis and treatment. It may be hard to find the right words to say but it’s important to let them know how much you care. Ask them how they’re feeling and how things are going. Listening when they want to talk about their cancer is one of the best ways you can do that.
  • Respect their decisions: They’ll likely face decisions about their treatment so respect their choices. Listen without judgment. For example, be supportive if they choose to participate in a clinical trial. And unless they ask, avoid sharing stories about others’ experiences undergoing treatment.
  • Talk about other things: It’s OK to chat about things other than cancer. Although treatment is a big part of their lives, it’s not the only thing. Family activities, favorite TV shows and whatever else you normally talk about are perfectly fine to share with each other.
  • Choose a chore: It’s good to offer your help and even better if you pick specific tasks or chores. Instead of saying, “Let me know how I can help,” ask what night you could make dinner for the family, what day you could mow the lawn or which appointments you could drive them to.
  • Count them in: You may worry they won’t feel well enough or won’t want to join you for a night at the movies, book club or a lunch date. Ask anyway, and allow them to decide what is too much. Continue to invite them for outings and activities as you always have.
Alicia Coffin RN
Alicia Coffin, RN, is an oncology nurse and survivorship specialist at UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Center.