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Navigating cancer together: 10 ways to support your loved one

3 min read

Emotions can run rampant when someone you love is diagnosed with cancer. There is fear and uncertainty, but being supportive is valuable. Here are ten ways you can offer support and encouragement to your loved one:

  1. Visit them. Whether in their home or the hospital, visiting and spending time with your loved one is a simple way to show your support. Check with your loved one beforehand to respect their privacy and need for rest.
  2. Be a good listener. Be a compassionate listener. Your loved one may or may not want to share their experience with you. They may seek conversation that provides a distraction. Allow them to guide the conversation—allow them to choose the topics, and don’t force any conversation they aren’t willing to have.
  3. Send a card. A handwritten card is seen as a thoughtful gesture in a world of social media and digital everything. It is meaningful when someone takes time to handwrite a note, and this can be kept as a tangible reminder of your support.
  4. Connect them with a community. Help your loved one find a cancer support organization. There is strength and encouragement found in sharing experiences and community support.
  5. Tell them how you can help. Offering specific help is often more appreciated than a generic offer. Don’t just say, “Let me know if you need anything.” Instead, offer to walk the dog, get together with friends, prepare meals, run errands, or clean the house. They may be reluctant to ask for help, but when you provide specific ways you can help, there is more ease in accepting it.
  6. Pick up the phone. Sometimes, physically being with people may be too draining. A simple phone call can provide the much-needed connection without overwhelming them with more visits.
  7. Pray for them. For those open to spiritual support, offer prayer or initiate a prayer chain.
  8. Go to chemo with them. Chemotherapy can be a long and lonely experience. Offer companionship during the treatments.
  9. Respect their boundaries. Balancing support and your loved one’s boundaries can be a delicate process. Be aware of their need for space, recognize their boundaries, and ensure your presence is comforting and not overwhelming.
  10. Support through the diagnosis and recovery. It is common to have a solid support system at the initial diagnosis, but as your loved one moves into recovery, don’t forget to continue offering your love and support.

Let love, empathy, and tangible acts of kindness guide you into your role as a supportive friend or family member. No matter how small, every gesture contributes to the blanket of support surrounding your loved one.

At Mount Nittany Health, a wide variety of services are available to you from patient navigators to connecting with support groups and resources. Check out our support services at