What to Do When a Loved One has Cancer
Everyone likely knows of someone who has had cancer because cancer is unfortunately a common disease. I recently passed my five-year anniversary since being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and this gave me so many flashbacks. As I was remembering all of the trials I once faced, I realized that there is more to cancer than just a diagnosis.
Cancer effects the entire person and their family in more than just a physical way. It drains you emotionally and sometimes challenges you spiritually. Here a few tips I came up with, along with the help of our founders, Sharday and Mario Richardson, for when a loved one has cancer.
1. Give them space.
I know it can be hard to not stick by their side the whole time, but you do have to give your loved one space. While it does depend on their age, everyone still processes things differently. For a child, this could mean giving him play time where you let him do what he wants (while being safe and careful still). For an adult friend, this could mean letting her spend time alone because we all need moments of self-care and alone time to process the trials we face. It’s important to let your loved one know that you’ll be there for them whenever they need you, but you don’t physically have to be around them 24/7.
2. Recognize the boundaries.
This tip mostly applies to loved ones who are older. Sometimes, you have to agree to disagree. For example, if you have a lot of faith that your loved one can beat cancer, but say she does not, then you cannot force your beliefs on her. Everyone deals with these situations differently, and you have to obey those boundary lines. You can still be praying for her though, because God will take care of us no matter what.
3. Understand that their life will forever be changed.
One thing I wish people knew about cancer, especially after going through it myself, is that it has its lasting side effects, which will affect your loved one for the rest of his or her life. These side effects can be physical or emotional. For example, some cancer treatments leave women infertile, but she might not find out until years down the road. Something I have and probably always will struggle with is the emotional side effects. When anniversaries come around of significant days, like the day I had my biopsy, or the day I found out what stage I had, I can’t help but feel emotional. While it is exciting to look back and see how much God has brought me through, I still remember all of the feelings I had of confusion and worry. Being aware that your loved one will change is good, because then it makes them feel less ashamed for the side effects they’re experiencing from a diagnosis they may have had decades ago.