It’s an inconceivably difficult situation: how do you cope when a friend or loved one is diagnosed with cancer? As the number of those affected by the disease grows, it’s more important than ever to learn about it and how to cope if somebody you know is affected.
The World Health Organisation has found that there around 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths each year. With this figure expected to rise by about 70 per cent by 2030, World Cancer Day on February 4 is intended to raise awareness and save millions of lives.
We spoke to a Medical Practitioner , to get expert advice on how you can best support somebody after diagnosis.
1. Reach out to them
Your friend or loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer needs to know you are there for them. If they aren’t feeling up to welcome visitors – frequent, short phone calls can be a good way of reaching out. You can use this time to help take their mind off any worries, and they will find great comfort in knowing you are there to listen to them when they need you. You can also use this time to talk about future meetings and plans, giving them something to look forward to and help them focus on things that bring them joy.
2. Offer practical help
One of the most frustrating things about cancer is that it wears people down and lessens their ability to do things they once found easy or enjoyable. Whether this is going out to meet friends for a coffee, the housework, grocery shopping or something else, offer your help to make their day a little easier.
3. Share with them
It may be a colleague of yours that has been diagnosed with cancer. And in this case, if they are welcome to the idea and it is appropriate, you can offer to take on some of their workload where possible. You can also use lunch hours to make their days easier by going for a walk to help clear their mind. Sometimes just knowing that a colleague is looking out for you can help you through the working week.
4. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about cancer
Sometimes we don’t know how to talk or act when a loved one is unwell, potentially creating awkward situations. Maybe we assume that they won’t want to talk about their diagnosis, but in fact, this could be exactly what they need. Each person is different – talk to them.
5. Go with them to medical appointments
It can be hard to pick up everything the doctor is saying, and medical appointments and treatment can be particularly stressful after cancer diagnosis. Let them know that you’re willing to be there to help and support them through this difficult time. If appropriate, you can also find out more information about support groups and programmes available in the local area, which your friend or loved one may find extremely valuable.