Helping a Loved One Going Through Cancer Treatment

Helping a Loved One Going Through Cancer Treatment

When someone you love has cancer, you have to put aside your own feelings of discomfort and be there for them. As tough as it is watching a friend or family member battle the disease, it is 100 times worse for the person actually going through it.

Knowing what to expect as your loved one goes through cancer treatment can help prepare you for the months ahead. Of course, each cancer journey is unique to the patient. Not all people with cancer have the same symptoms from their treatment. However, the possibilities include: 

  • Fatigue (very common)
  • Chronic pain
  • Emotional changes and mood swings
  • Mental illness
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cognitive decline nicknamed “chemo brain
  • Pale skin and lips
  • Changes in sensory processing
  • Hair loss
  • Disfigurement (for example, losing a breast after a mastectomy)

With all the difficult side effects of cancer treatments, it’s important to be there both in the physical sense of the word as well as mentally and emotionally for your loved one. 

Helping Out Around the House

Most people don’t get to take off work when going through cancer treatment, so they have to pile on doctor appointments and trips to the clinic along with everything else in their busy schedule. This can lead to things falling through the cracks as far as household chores go. Lending a helping hand around the house is a great way to really help a loved one with cancer in a way that they will appreciate. 

  • Buy groceries for easy-to-make healthy meals and stock up their refrigerator and pantry. If they have kids, be sure to purchase plenty of kid-friendly options they can turn to on busy days. 
  • Hire a housecleaner to come by once a week to dust, sweep, mop and do all those little cleaning duties your loved one is too exhausted to do themselves.
  • If you’re doing laundry, swing by and grab a load or two off their hands.
  • Volunteer to babysit when they have to go to the doctor, but also offer your services anytime they need a night off to decompress and practice some self-care. If they don’t have kids, offer to watch their pets or walk the dog whenever they need help.
  • If they have a yard, get a couple volunteers to spend the afternoon cleaning it up. Mow the lawn, mulch the flower beds and pull weeds so their plants don’t go into disrepair while they are in treatment. 

Being There for Your Loved One

Sometimes people don’t need help with chores and child care as much as they need a reminder that they are loved and valued. The simplest and most effective way to do this is by telling them, of course. Talk to your loved one regularly, but more important is listening to them. Let them express their fears and anxieties about cancer and their treatment process. Be an active listener and avoid passing judgments. Beyond these two simple things, there are other ways to show your loved one that you are there for them. 

  • Send a gift. Flowers, chocolates and candies are always appreciated, but it really helps if you get them something more personal. Get them a book by their favorite author or something that reminds them of an inside joke between the two of you. The more thought you put into it, the more it shows you care
  • If your loved one’s physician prescribes painkillers while they are going through treatment, be mindful of their usage and look for signs of opioid addiction. Having someone help with accountability can help prevent painkiller abuse.
  • Join them when they have to go to the clinic for treatment. These places can be cold and lonely. Having you with them can ease anxiety and create a sense of comfort. 


When a loved one has cancer, having you there can make a world of difference. There are many ways you can help, especially around the house. Help clean, do yard work, watch children, or even stock the kitchen with groceries. Beyond housework, it’s important to simply be there for your loved one. Knowing they are loved and valued gives them the strength to fight and beat this terrible disease. 


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