How to Support Someone with Cancer

The support I received during my fight with cancer helped me survive

If you have a loved one who is facing cancer, you may have a hard time reacting to such disheartening news You may want to help but not know how to support someone with cancer. Many people experience this dilemma. Regardless of your personal struggles with knowing someone you love has cancer, offering that person support is vital in his or her recovery.

It is important to provide support for someone dealing with cancer. I was blessed with tremendous support from family and friends during my battle with stage IV breast cancer. I took an active approach in my fight for survival, and without the love and support of those around me it may not have been possible.

Upon hearing the news of me, a 26-year old at the time being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, many people had no idea how to react. Early on it seemed I was in the midst of uncomfortable conversations with virtually everyone. I felt like no one could say anything that seemed appropriate.

Some people would say things like, “it will be fine” which felt as though it lacked substance. Others would launch in to a discussion of someone that they knew who had cancer and more often than not it ended in death…Do not tell stories about dying to a person who is battling a life-threatening disease.

Some people had a hard time facing me, and would try to avoid speaking to me directly. It was as if they didn’t know who I was. I was a leper—untouchable and not to be spoken to. I felt a wall going up around me. It was devastating. I was being placed outside of the world I lived in.

In an effort to save myself and help everyone feel more comfortable, I began writing a series of letters to friends and family, updating them on what was happening.

Here are some excerpts from the first letter I sent out:

“Please don’t feel sorry for me. Cry if you need to, I certainly do, but after that please decide to make a difference. We need your prayers… If you wonder if you can make a difference we know that you can… Nothing is impossible. Aside from praying, I would like to be kept in the loop of a normal life. I would love to have lots of mail of encouragement, inspiring, funny and everyday life. Tell us if you saw a good movie. We may be renting a few. Talk to us about real things and insignificant things, I’m sure we’ll need it.”
Heather Jose & Daughter Sydney

Me and my daughter at the Race for the Cure

Along the way, there were so many people who offered invaluable help and support. They offered practical help, like watching my young daughter Sydney while I was at the hospital or busy trying to keep healthy. They offered spiritual and mental assurance for me, telling me they would pray for my full recovery, offering heartfelt positive encouragement. They wrote me cards, gave me books and told me they believed in me. I took an aggressive approach when it came to killing cancer, and their love and support kept me motivated.

If you’d like more ideas on how to support someone with cancer, please click here to see specific examples of the kind of help my supporters provided me.

My Story

If this article speaks to you—if you’re interested in learning more about my story with cancer—please take a look at my book Every Day We Are Killing Cancer. My book is not just my story. It also details how friends, family, medical professionals, acquaintances and even strangers pulled together to support and help me through. My book is a wealth of information on how to support someone with cancer.

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