coping with cancer

How to help a friend or a relative who is diagnosed with cancer?

When the moment somebody is told that they have cancer, it is a like massive blow. Their mind is swirling with innumerable thoughts. Does this happen to them, if they are told that he has acquired a common cold? It doesn’t happen so!

The reasons are pretty simple! We all know that it is pretty short-lived, and we already know It will not harm us except for a short period of discomfort. Or probably we have actually experienced it before and hence we have firsthand information and so we are very confident about the outcomes.

Well, with cancer that same level of information is not present with us. An average person will not know about the symptoms nor about its treatment. So, the word cancer creates a fear of unknown. Such a situation in the general public is a good breeding ground for myths and beliefs.

Another situation would be where, we have incomplete or partial information and that creates unpleasant impressions. Unless the individual who had cancer is our close associate, we would not have information from the start to the end of the treatment and we will be basing our information on bits and pieces gathered on different occasions and in different contexts.

It is very common for individuals to believe that cancer can spread from person to person like a communicable disease. It is equally common to believe that cancer is incurable, and death is inevitable. More so, that chemotherapy is always associated with hair loss and people also believe that it is near impossible to complete chemotherapy. People associate cancer with unbearable pain and death.

Such beliefs, impressions will obviously result in severe anxiety and create a feeling of catastrophe in the individual diagnosed with cancer. An intense of feeling helplessness envelopes the individual. The first step in our attempt to support these individuals is to reassure them that we will be with them, come what may!

The individual is overwhelmed by the number of investigations, intense anxiety is experienced as each result is received and experiences a severe burden in assimilating the information in the context of the overall picture. 

What is required of us as caregiver in this phase, is to sit with them, review the investigations along with them, research along with them on the internet or study the information booklets provided by the doctor or the hospital.

This sort of support needs to continue as the patient will be informed about the treatment options. The patient, as he is coming to terms with the diagnosis, is now bombarded with fresh information about possible treatment options from which he has to choose and each option comes with its own pros and cons. Many a time patient has to come to terms with losing a limb or possibly undergo a major surgery with its attendant risks. Imagine being informed, that henceforth for the rest our lives, we will not be able to use the bathroom like we used to, but instead we are expected to empty our intestines through an opening in the front of our abdomen. The very thought is gross, revolting and having to deal with it for the rest of our lives is unimaginable. It is not only an aberration to deal with in private but to adjust and adapt in our social life. In women it can even affect the way they can dress and compromise them in the range of costumes they can use!


Accessing cancer support information from authentic websites is of primary importance and is one such. Information on this site has been curated and approved by cancer specialists.

Talking with Someone who has Cancer !

So many things happen, so soon and so much adaptation needs to happen on so many fronts!

I believe the best way to help our person in such a crisis is by making it very obvious that you are and will be the fallback person and that you are available for any need, how small it may be! I would in such situations would ask objectively what he (the patient) wants rather than me making assumptions about his needs! It is a common mistake done by many of us in our hurry to help him or her!

Sharing information, creating access to information online and most importantly discussing the contents of these booklets with them helps them form their thoughts and make decisions.

A support person should be focusing on giving the strongest reassurance possible that he or she is always available by the side of the patient, come what may. It is an innate human desire for want of company, and a desire to share one’s own sorrows and sufferings. The most important role of the support individual is to be a patient listener and become an outlet for the emotions.

A statement as simple “Hey, call me if you need company!” or even a simple SMS mentioning that you were thinking of him (the patient) is a lot for somebody feeling all alone and frightened. Even just sitting with him and having a coffee while remaining silent is good enough!

Sharing information about individuals that you know who have overcome cancer, or how they handled the side-effects of chemotherapy or the time it took for the hair to regrow after chemo does add to the morale.

Nothing is better than actually seeing or meeting. Creating opportunities for patients with similar issues to meet up and exchange through self-help groups is the best way forward. It is the best ground for people to talk, share and find solutions for problems. Meeting somebody who has actually crossed the hurdle would be more inspiring than innumerable talks about inspiring tales.

The patient has already a lot on his plate to deal and hence we need to remember that it is not about us. We need to leave our ego at the door and come in to listen to what the patient has to say. Make decisions with him and not for him.

We need to remember, a diagnosis of cancer for the patient is like turning his entire world upside down and our every attempt should be to make him feel in control of his life and reassure him and give hope that there is a normal life beyond cancer.


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