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13 Things To Remember If You Love Someone With Cancer

13 Things To Remember If You Love Someone With Cancer

When someone you love is faced with something as unfamiliar and unpredictable as a cancer diagnosis, everything around you might seem like it’s falling apart. What do you do? What do you say? How do you support them through this? How do you support yourself?

Here are a few things to remember as you work through this situation with someone you love.

1. It’s time to forget everything you think you know about fighting cancer

No two cancer experiences are alike. While one person’s story may be enough to get you through today, your loved one probably won’t feel the same. You can read all the books and articles out there, but in reality, cancer has a way of behaving unpredictably, either for better or worse.

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2. People with cancer want to talk about things other than cancer

There will be times your loved one wants to talk about what they’re going through, but don’t be surprised if those times seem few. Those battling cancer don’t want to bring up cancer in every single conversation they have with you. Often, they’ll just want to talk about the same things the two of you always talk about: their favorite sports team or the latest book they read. Just go with it. Save “cancer talk” for their next doctor’s appointment, unless they bring it up first.

3. Sometimes all you need to do is listen

Someone faced with a cancer diagnosis more than likely understands that you don’t understand what they’re going through. They don’t expect you to. They also don’t expect you to give them unsolicited advice or to constantly shower them with positive messages. Sometimes all they need is for someone to listen to them. Being that person for them is more helpful and meaningful than you might realize.

4. Someone with cancer needs encouragement, not advice

If your loved one has a doctor they really trust, they will lean on him or her for advice about their circumstances. They probably don’t expect that kind of support from you, too. While their relationship with their doctor may be all business, they might want their relationship with you to be the exact opposite. A simple, “I’ll be right here, we’re going to get through this” before an appointment might be just what they need from you.

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5. A small act of kindness goes a long way

Something as small as picking up a newspaper or making a quick Target run on your way to visit them at home can mean much more to them than it might to you. It’s the little things that really make a difference.

6. Be observant

Your loved one might not always feel comfortable or able to tell you what they need. Pay close attention to their words and body language. Someone who is used to being independent can feel very overwhelmed when they start to realize they need to depend on others for basic necessities. It helps to ask them what they need or to ask them specifically, “Can I take care of that for you?”

7. Be patient

Keep in mind that you are not the only one faced with this reality. Your loved one doesn’t know how to handle it most of the time either. They will probably get frustrated, and so will you. Be patient. If you need to take a few deep breaths, go ahead. Caring for someone with cancer is a journey filled with twists and dead ends. It doesn’t get easier, but you might be able to settle into a rhythm to make things more bearable.

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8. Be positive

Fill their environment with positivity as often as you can. This doesn’t mean you have to shower them with cards or avoid talking about the negative things going on in your life. Encourage them, especially when they’re having a rough day, the same way you would want someone to encourage you. Let them know you are there for them, no matter what.

9. Give them space when they need it

Try not to take it personally if your loved one seems to be pushing you away. That’s not their intention at all. Everyone grieves in their own way, and sometimes your loved one might just need some alone time. Respect that need. Let them know you can be there if they need you, but don’t be there if they’re trying to communicate they need to be alone.

10. Don’t claim you understand what they’re going through

Odds are, you don’t. Everyone’s experience with cancer is different, the same way every type of cancer varies in the way it affects the body. You may have dealt with similar traumatizing experiences before or you might have even battled cancer yourself, but now is not the time to bring up your experiences to show your loved one you “get it.”

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11. Be respectful and supportive of their decisions, even if you don’t agree

Ultimately, treatment decisions are still completely up to them. If they make decisions without consulting you first, or you don’t agree with the decision they have made, now is not the time to speak up. Those battling cancer are losing control of many parts of their life, they may have once taken for granted. Let them have control over their treatment. Let them have this moment.

12. You need support, too – but not from your loved one who’s suffering

When faced with a loved one’s cancer diagnosis, grieving can hit you hard. It’s not easy to take care of someone you love and deal with your feelings at the same time. You might need support, too – and that’s okay – but seeking out and expecting support from the person you’re taking care of, isn’t the best way to go. Find a friend, another family member or even a professional to help get you through it, so you have the strength to help the one who needs it most.

13. There’s still a person underneath the pain

Not even just “a person” – a person you love. Undergoing treatment and the disease itself will change them on the outside, sometimes so much so that you barely recognize them. They’re still there. They’re still the same person you have always known and loved. Look past the physical changes. You’ll see them there, and once you do, that’s something you’ll be able to hold onto forever.

Above all, remember to allow yourself time to slow down and take things moment by moment. Whatever happens, you are going to make it through this.

Featured photo credit: Hernán Piñera via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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