While you may feel helpless next to a friend or loved one going through cancer treatment, your love and support just may be the most powerful weapons to help them deal with pain, discomfort, fear, and sadness. Experts and doctors actually encourage patients to get social support from loved ones as it lessens side effects like anxiety and depression. Remember that this person may not always be in a good mood and laughter may not be the best medicine on some days. Being present, flexible, and the patient can go a long way, but always be on hand to offer your time, love, and assistance.
Stay Active Together
Exercise can help improve the mood of cancer patients, but research shows that it can also improve signs of fatigue, so there’s no reason to completely avoid activity during chemo, however, the patient should check with his/her doctor so they’re not overdoing it. Of course, the best way to stay motivated is to have a partner, so take a meditative yoga class together or walk outside in the sunshine for an added bonus of bone-building vitamin D.
You may not have time to help your loved one with every task, but you can assist by hiring a pro to help out with house cleaning, yard work, pet boarding, and dog walking. It can be easy to lose the motivation to do daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, but letting things go is only liable to make the patient feel worse. An animal is like having a child, so it can’t be neglected no matter what’s going on in the world of its owner. Outside services can give your loved one peace of mind knowing that their obligations are in order.
Prepare Pre-Made Healthy Meals
Chemotherapy can absolutely destroy a person’s appetite. Nausea, bathroom issues, and dry mouth are among the many undesirable side effects. With that in mind, a cancer patient is not apt to be motivated to cook a gourmet meal — or any proper meal for that matter. Consider their nutritional needs and pre-prepare food that’s conducive to their current state of health — items that can be frozen are great as they won’t spoil should your loved one not have a big appetite. Cancer patients should be eating lean meats like fish and chicken, or plant-based proteins like lentils. Patients should also eat a variety of fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy (and alternatives), whole grains and starchy vegetables; healthy fats; and plenty of water. This combination helps to build strength and muscle mass while combating side effects.
Remember To Lighten Up
While laughter can’t and should not be forced, there’s nothing wrong with putting on a funny movie, seeing a comedy show, or recalling amusing memories should the moment be right. If a full-blown laugh fest is not in the cards, a meaningful, positive conversation can also be helpful. No matter how difficult it may be for you to watch your loved one go through the arduous treatment process, a gloom and doom attitude isn’t going to help them — or you — feel any better.
It can be difficult to figure out exactly how to handle speaking to someone with cancer — even if it’s a parent, spouse, or best friend. As a general rule of thumb, always give your full attention when your loved one is talking, think before you speak to avoid hurting their feelings, don’t minimize their situation, avoid comparisons, and refrain from speaking about any physical changes. This is all easier said than done, so remember to take care of yourself in the process of supporting your loved one.