How to Support a Loved One Who Has Metastatic Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

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For those who have metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), support from family and friends is essential. According to the National Cancer Institute, having support can help people who have cancer feel less alone and better able to navigate their care.

That’s because most people who have cancer experience a range of feelings throughout their care, from anger and sadness to guilt and even loneliness. What’s more, anxiety and fear are also common, and according to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1 in 4 people with cancer have clinical depression.

When a loved one is diagnosed with metastatic NSCLC, you also might feel a similar range of emotions. You may be fearful of losing your loved one to cancer, frustrated by trying to find productive ways to help, or even stressed out due to caregiver responsibilities. But finding the right ways to help can actually put you at ease while providing your loved one with the support they need.

Make Sure They Know They’re Not Alone

A diagnosis of metastatic NSCLC often comes with a variety of decisions to make — from choosing a treatment course to considering finances and planning for the future. Just being there for your loved to talk through things can help ease the burden, as well as the many emotions they may be feeling about their diagnosis.

According to Catherine Credeur, LMSW, an oncology social worker at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and the past president of the Association of Oncology Social Work, it can help to “Say things like ‘I’m sorry that you’re going through this’ ‘How can I help you?’ and ‘Do you know yet what your treatment is going to be like and do you want to talk about it?’” Establishing that line of communication — and keeping it open — is key.

Talk Less, Listen More

“Often when patients open up, they’re flooded with other people’s cancer stories,” Creuder says. While you might want to share a story and relate to your loved one, refrain. Instead, just be there for them. “We deal a lot with the aftereffects of people giving unsolicited advice,” Creuder adds. “People are almost always well meaning, but it just adds another layer of heartache when the patient is already in a very vulnerable state.”

Instead, it can be more helpful to:

  • Encourage your loved one to talk without pressing the issue
  • Provide a compassionate ear for when they’re ready to talk
  • Treat them the same as before their diagnosis and maintain a sense of normalcy
  • Give a healing hug, as touch can help reduce anxiety and fear

Find Ways to Chip In

If your loved one isn’t able to identify what they might need from you — whether they’re still in shock, haven’t ironed out the logistics, or just don’t know what to anticipate when it comes to how cancer is going to change their life — try to take charge. “Make specific suggestions rather than throwing out an open-ended ‘Call me if you need me,’” Creuder says. Why? It can be really difficult for some people to ask for help if they’re not sure how to go about it. “If you can give a couple of concrete examples of things you can do that don’t pose a major inconvenience, it becomes a little bit easier for that person to take you up on your offer,” she says.

You can decide how to help based on what you’re comfortable with. For example, “Say something like ‘Would it be helpful for you if I organized meal deliveries for you?” or ‘I go grocery shopping every Saturday. Just call me on Friday with what you need and I’ll be happy to pick it up,’” says Credeur. Those small acts of kindness can have a huge, positive impact.

Other ways to offer concrete support might include:

  • Cooking dinner
  • Cleaning around the house
  • Doing laundry
  • Accompanying your loved one to a doctor’s appointment
  • Making a care package with healthy snacks, comfy pajamas, and their favorite books or movies
  • Fund-raising to aid with medical bills
  • Volunteering to babysit if they have kids

Keep an open line of communication to make sure that the ways you’re offering to pitch in are actually helpful to your loved one.


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