Help through cancer treatment and recovery

Tips for Loved Ones to Help You Through Cancer Treatment and Recovery

A diagnosis of cancer typically brings with it an array of emotions that can include fear, anger, sadness, depression, anxiety and others.  You may ask yourself, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Can this really be true?” 

At the same time, family and friends are experiencing many of the same kinds of feelings and wondering how they can help.  You may all find it difficult to know how to talk with one another about the diagnosis. This is not unusual. The following are some tips to help you and your family deal with the emotions you are experiencing.

  • Let them know that it is okay to visit and that you welcome their company. Be sure and tell them when it is okay to visit and when it is not, prepare them that you may tire easily and have to cut their visit short.

    • Ask them to listen when you need to talk about your illness.
    • Ask them to talk about things other than your illness.
    • Tell them it’s okay to laugh and to cry with you.
    • Allow them to pray for you and share their faith if you are comfortable with that.
  • When someone offers help – say YES!  Tell them what you need and how they can help:

    • Bring you a meal (in disposable containers - no clean-up or dishes to return)
    • Watch your children so you can go to medical appointments, rest, spend time alone or with other loved ones, or just to give the kids a break from you.
    • Invite your family to do things.
    • Come stay with you so your family can feel comfortable going out.
    • Drive you to your medical appointments.
    • Do some of your household chores or run an errand for you.
    • Bring over books, movies, music and a positive attitude that will lift your spirits.

The emotions associated with breast cancer include anger, loss of control, fear of recurrence, and issues of self-image, intimacy and sexuality.  Expressing these emotions to your loved ones, friends, spiritual leaders and healthcare team can help with emotional recovery.  Individual counseling and/or support groups for cancer survivors can also help. Virtua offers an array of programs to help you and your family cope and heal.  We also can refer you to other support programs in the community.

The time from initial diagnosis to the start of treatment can be difficult for you. You want to start fighting the disease, but you have to wait.  You and your spouse (or significant other) are trying to navigate through all of the appointments, decisions and information. Loved ones and friends are calling daily for an update on your health, asking how you are doing and how they can help.  You wonder: Should I tell my children? Should I call the school and tell my child’s teacher? What about work? Should I call my boss and share this information with co-workers? These are common reactions and concerns. Being honest and truthful is the best answer.

Updated December 29, 2017