How to Help Someone with Cancer

Last Modified: January 7, 2013


What can I do to help my cousin who was just diagnosed with lung cancer? I feel I don't even know what to say to her, she is only 54 years old.


Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN OncoLink Nurse Educator responds:

Please stay at the end and watch Donna Lee's video, she talks a bit about how just being there can be so helpful. Sometimes it is just listening that a person needs. If you can be there to support her at appointments, ask questions, take notes and help her make treatment decisions, that is quite useful. During such a time of stress, to have to make decisions is very difficult. Most of all, be supportive of her decisions. Don't impose your beliefs or "what I would do" unless she asks - you just don't really know what you would do unless you were in that situation.

There can also be the issue of childcare or family/household responsibilities that are overwhelming for someone. You can't do it all, but you can coordinate others offers of help. Start a calendar for meal delivery, taking kids to activities, driving to treatments. Websites like and allow you to set up a page and start a calendar where people can sign up for things to help out. Rally other moms at school, church community, neighbors or anyone who wants to help.

View Donna Lee's I Wish U Knew video to hear the perspective of a survivor.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Lung Cancer Webchat.


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