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Three ways to support a cancer patient

When your friend or family member has cancer, you want to support them. But sometimes, knowing how to be there for them can be difficult.

Beacon Cancer Care experts have provided three great ways for you to support someone you love who has cancer. Our nurse navigators have ample experience supporting oncology patients. They coordinate their care, help them access community resources and are with them on their cancer journey. They offer valuable insights on supporting cancer patients.


“One of the most important things we hear from patients is that family members and people who are there to help them sometimes don’t know how to act around them,” said Kathy Hawley, nurse navigator at Memorial Hospital.

“The most important thing is to be there to offer your assistance, but listen to the patient to hear what their need really is.” Patients may be scared, but they don’t want to be pitied. They typically just want to be heard.

As Kathy explained, it’s also easy to say that we know what someone else is going through. But with cancer, that’s rarely the case. Rather than saying, “I know what you’re going through,” try: “I’m here to listen and help in whatever way I can.”


Activities can be intimidating if you have concerns about what is safe for your loved one to do or are worried about what they’re capable of. But activities are vital for cancer patients’ physical and mental well-being. They’re a great way to keep your family member or friend engaged while maintaining a sense of normalcy.

“The person is just that – a person,” said Amy Anderson, nurse navigator at Elkhart General Hospital. “They are not defined by their cancer.” Continuing to do activities they love helps cancer patients feel more like themselves.

If your loved one is safe and able to do so, activities that are great to enjoy with a cancer patient include:

  • Sitting outside
  • Walking
  • Doing puzzles and word games
  • Playing cards
  • Painting and coloring
  • Attending church

Always connect with your loved one’s care team about what is safe for their unique situation.

Care packages

Care packages are a great way to show your loved one that you are thinking of them. Because cancer treatments cause certain side effects, thoughtful items for a cancer care package include:

  • Tissues
  • Lip balm
  • Lotions
  • Mints and hard candies
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Gas cards
  • Coloring books
  • Activity books
  • Neck pillows
  • Blankets
  • Food delivery service gift cards

Be sure to add a note to let your family member or friend know that you’re there for them.

For extra support

Navigating cancer – as the patient, family member or friend – can be overwhelming. But supporting a loved one who has cancer is worth it. Remember that your feelings and words have impact, so always listen to their needs, involve them in activities they enjoy and stay thoughtful when giving.

If you or a loved one are seeking cancer care, the comprehensive team at Beacon Cancer Care is here for you, close to home. When you’re ready, call 574-647-8300.