How to Support Someone Impacted by Cancer
We at Cancer CAREpoint join the troves of fans, friends, and family in sadness at the recent loss of Chadwick Boseman. We were not surprised that Chadwick grappled with his cancer in silence and that so many around him – employers, colleagues and fans – never knew of his diagnosis. The reality is that many people choose to keep their cancer diagnosis a secret, often from their employer but also from friends and family.
Though difficult to understand, reasons range from not wanting to be a burden to their family to fear of losing their job. A cancer diagnosis inherently brings feelings of isolation and vulnerability; keeping a diagnosis to oneself exacerbates these feelings. Though someone may choose to keep his/her diagnosis private, that does not mean they need to face cancer alone. Cancer CAREpoint is here for anyone, anywhere along their cancer journey, and offers a safe space to talk about a diagnosis and the challenges that come with it. We can, for instance, help find the words to discuss cancer with children, or cope with the emotions of survivorship.
At Cancer CAREpoint, our clients find support, compassion, and understanding in a safe environment where the patient is free to fully express how they feel – in support groups, individual counseling, or through exercise in yoga and meditation classes. And we all have an opportunity to show support and compassion to those around us, knowing that the patient may be your employee, colleague, neighbor, or friend. If someone you care about is coping with a cancer diagnosis, we offer the following suggestions:
- Say simple things like: “I’m here for you” or “I’m thinking of you” if you don’t know what to say. It is better to try and connect and be supportive than to let the person feel alone and ignored.
- Be an active listener. Often the best thing you can do for the patient is to create a safe space to share feelings and experiences.
- Offer to complete tasks by being concrete and specific about what you can do, like “I would like to bring you dinner this week. I can do this on Wednesday or Thursday. Do either of those days work?”
- Let the person with cancer guide the conversation. A cancer patient may want to talk about everyday things, like new movies or great books, rather than talk about their cancer or treatment.
- Avoid comparisons – everyone has their own experience with cancer.
- If they want your input or suggestions they will ask – keep it about them and not about you
- Ask their caregivers how you can support them.
Dawn Hogh, Executive Director