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Your Starter Pack for Supporting Loved Ones with Cancer

February 04, 2022

“What can I do to help?” is a question often asked of cancer patients. While the question certainly is well-intended, the phrase can also add to patients’ mental and emotional burden. Patients may think, “Where do I start?”

Whether a friend, a caregiver, or a colleague to someone with cancer, you can care for and support them in meaningful ways. That includes taking “how can I help?” decisions off your loved one’s plate, and even avoiding uneasiness or embarrassment they could feel in asking for help.

In honor of World Cancer Day, February 4, and to better care for cancer patients at every opportunity, consider using the “starter packs” below, customized for your role in a cancer patient’s life.

Friends and family starter pack
  • Calls and texts. Reach out to your loved one, and don’t delay in making every moment count. Text or call your loved one with fun updates or simply to say hello. Put a card in the mail or send a photo of a beloved memory. These small gestures can have a big impact, brighten your loved one’s day, and let them know how important they are to you.
  • Time. Make time to speak to your friend regularly or ask for their advice on something non-cancer related. Tell your friend or loved one, “I’ll be in touch again soon,” and be sure to follow up. If you plan to visit in-person, always ask ahead of time to check that they feel up to it.
  • Space for support groups. Though you love your friend or family member, sometimes patients need to hear from others facing cancer. Encourage them to connect with fellow patients through support groups to talk about their shared experiences.
Caregiver starter pack
  • ‘Eyes and ears.’ Be your patient’s “eyes and ears” to help keep track of appointments, conversations with providers, and medications. It’s also important to ensure you understand your patient’s wishes and can help communicate those to others within your loved one’s caring community.
  • Self-care. You may focus on the health and well-being of someone with cancer, but as a caregiver, your own health is important, too. Carve out time for yourself to prioritize what makes you feel happy and healthy, such as exercise, nutritious meals, or a good night’s sleep.
  • Circle of support. Bring others in who can help with aspects of caregiving, like cleaning, picking up prescriptions, or delivering food. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to others or take them up on their offers to help.
Employer starter pack
  • Flexibility. Your colleague or employee may need to adjust their schedule while they’re undergoing treatment. And, if they’re immunocompromised, they could need to isolate or avoid large groups of people. In either instance, be flexible and allow your colleague to take the time they need.
  • Helping hands. It can mean a lot to see an entire office or team come together to help a colleague facing cancer. Coworkers can set up a meal train, collect items for a care package, or donate vacation days to show how much they care about their friend and colleague.
  • Centralized communication. Encourage your employee or coworker to coordinate with human resources and review company policies and benefits. It can also be helpful to designate one person as the office contact for sharing your coworker’s updates with others, or consider creating a Careopolis page where online updates and messages can be shared.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.