Tips for Offering Support to Your Loved One with Cancer

When difficult and tragic circumstances present themselves in a loved one, it can often be challenging to find the right words to say. Sometimes a person won’t say anything to a loved one who has cancer because they don’t know what they could possibly contribute to help that person feel better. And sometimes you don’t have to say anything at all, but it is important for any cancer patient to have a good support system and to know that their loved ones are there when they need them.

Here are some tips provided by the Teton Cancer Institute to help you support your loved one with cancer.

Let the know you are thinking of them. Don’t keep your distance because you don’t know what to say. Tell them you love them and offer support so they know that they can rely on you in this hard time.

Let them share information. Rather than asking questions about their treatments or test results, wait for them to share that information with you at a time when they feel comfortable doing so.

Think before you speak. Consider what you are going to say before you say it. A joke that you might have said before could now have a negative impact on your loved one. Be aware of how they might be feeling and let that guide your conversation with them.

Don’t say anything negative about how they look. If they look exhausted or sick, they are probably aware of it because that’s how they feel. You don’t need to add to that. Instead, offer words of encouragement.

Show affection and help them out where you can. Right now, what they need is your love and support. Instead of saying, “Call me if you need anything,” think of something specific you can do for them and then do it.

Help them feel normal. Sometimes they just want life to feel normal so the burden of the cancer doesn’t seem so heavy. Allow them to do the mundane daily tasks if that’s what they want to do to create a sense of normality.

Avoid comparisons. Don’t compare your loved one to your own or another’s experience with cancer. Every person’s experience is different, so recognize that and learn how you can best offer them support.

Just listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to simply be there with them and listen. Whether they want to cry, talk about the cancer, or talk about another topic altogether, just listen to what they have to say.

For additional help, consider joining a support group or organization whose purpose is to help cancer patients and their loved ones.


  • Leela

    After some experience with negative people after dealing with this myself.
    Do not blame the actual cancer or the delay of treatment by the doctors on the person with cancer.
    I actually had someone tell me I did something that caused it. Not just once, but several times.

  • Tamra Phelps

    Good advice, I think. When a friend had cancer last year (he was also my brother’s father-in-law), it was so hard to know what to say but I didn’t want to be one of those people who say nothing or, worse, just don’t come around, because of fear of saying the wrong thing.

    • Connie Gruning

      I think just being ‘there’ to listen is always good. But, it is hard to know what to say. When The Husband was diagnosed with MS people just stopped coming around because it was “too hard to see him this way” ………. BLAH!! Sometimes people are just ……. dumb.

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