How to Support a Loved One with Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is never easy for patients and their loved ones. It’s a difficult subject to talk about, and many people who have never had cancer don’t know how to handle it. Do you talk about it, or pretend it isn’t happening? Should you bring gifts? Is it weird to go to treatment with your loved one?

Asia Cutforth, a CSC Education Intern, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma her freshman year of college. This cancer survivor weighs in on how, and how not, to support loved ones with cancer.

Be mindful about gifts

Try to make sure they are actually useful. While giving gifts may seem nice, there are many ways to figure out what the patient actually needs. After Asia’s diagnosis, she received a lot of socks, but what her family really needed was help getting dinner on the table after infusion days.

Help them share their story

If appropriate, offer to help someone you know with cancer to run a personal health blog like MyLifeLine. It’s a helpful tool to give loved ones health updates, and it takes the stress of the patient to answer everyone’s questions.

Offer to go to appointments

Getting to and from appointments may be a challenge, and sitting in an infusion room can be boring/lonely/scary. Spending time with a loved one during their treatment can help them take their mind off of their cancer.

Be forgiving

Don’t be upset when your offers are declined or messages go unread. Someone with cancer is going through a lot, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love or appreciate you anymore. Be patient.

A person is not their diagnosis

Cancer does not have to be the only thing people talk about. They are still your friend/loved one/etc., but you also don’t have to pretend like their cancer doesn’t exist.

Do not assume you understand

Every cancer experience is different. Don’t compare their experiences to someone else you know. This can sometimes make you seem insensitive even when that’s not your intention.


Don’t ask too many questions, and don’t feel the need to provide answers or solutions. Let them share information, thoughts and feelings as they need. There are plenty of information sites that can answer all of your technical questions about their diagnosis, so read up on the facts on your own so you can be there emotionally for your loved one.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, consider checking out the Cancer Support Community’s resources. Consider calling the Cancer Support Helpline with any questions or concerns you have.

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