Home Curiosity How To Support a Loved One Through a Late Cancer Diagnosis

How To Support a Loved One Through a Late Cancer Diagnosis


Wondering how you can support your loved one who has been given a cancer diagnosis too late? This article should provide some tips…

holding hands

A diagnosis in cancer can be devastating, for both the person affected and their family and friends. What can be even more devastating is if the cancer was detected later, as this can mean it’s at a more advanced stage and may be trickier to recover from, if at all.

Seeking compensation for delayed cancer diagnosis is one avenue that victims may take. This can help with funding the increased medical bills, surgeries and consultations, as well as any emotional and physical turmoil that may ensure afterwards.

That said, the emotional side of it all is something that may be difficult to recover from. That’s why supporting your loved one who has been dealt this blow is something you’ll want to do. However, it won’t be easy, with your own emotions standing in the way, so here are some tips to help you support your loved one…

1.   Consider a Practical Approach

Many people lead with their hearts, and perhaps you’re one of these people; someone who leads with their emotions first. Your first instinct may be to crumble, but the reality is that your loved one is the one who will be affected by this most.

They will be dealing with their own emotions. So, it’s time for you to put your practical shoes on, and lead with logic and compassion, being a rock for them in this difficult time.

To do this, try and keep your emotions in check when you’re around this person. If they have limited time left due to their late diagnosis, they may wish to spend this time enjoying things. Try and be the person they can depend on to give them this gift.

2.   Take Care of Yourself

The above tip may sound like a cold way of dealing with things, but it’s important to note that we’re not suggesting you don’t show any emotions at all.

This is no doubt going to be an emotional time for you too. It may just be better to exhibit these emotions behind closed doors, or lean on your other loved ones for your own support, rather than relying on the person most affected.

Some ideas to take care of yourself behind closed doors, so you can be a rock for your loved one, could include:

  • Leaning on a partner, friend, sibling, parent, or other loved one.
  • Going to a support group.
  • Practicing selfcare, like going on walks, exercising, and enjoying hot baths.
  • Researching the topic so that you can get a sense of what you’re tackling, and go in with your eyes open.

3.   Say the Right Things

You’ll never really know what the right things to say are. But, there are some helpful lists out there of things to avoid saying, and things that are better to say.

Some phrases to avoid can include “don’t worry”, “I know how you feel”, “I’m sure you’ll be fine”, or anything else that diminishes the situation. It may also be best not to ask the person how long they have left.

Instead, some phrases to say could include “I’m here if you need to talk”, “I’m sorry this happened to you”, “what are you thinking of doing?”, “I care about you”, or “how can I help?” These phrases are much more helpful and heartfelt, and show you are there for them.

woman in pink

4.   Ask the Doctors the Right Questions

When you’ve been given this news, you’ll no doubt have many questions swimming around your head. It may be tricky to sift through them all.

Cancer.gov have provided a list of some questions you should consider asking the doctors, so you have the best sense of what’s next. Here are some of these questions, so you can get all the information you need:

  • What’s the best we can hope for by trying another treatment?
  • Is this treatment meant to ease side effects or slow the spread of cancer?
  • Is there a chance that a new treatment will be found while we try the old one?
  • What are the possible side effects and other downsides of the treatment?
  • Are the possible rewards bigger than the possible drawbacks?

Work together with your loved one to ask these questions and decide what the best next steps are.

5.   Listen to Your Loved One

It’s only natural that you’ll want to start researching the condition, as well as any doctors and specialists who may be able to help. However, some people may be content with their diagnosis, and happy to go with the options they already have. What’s more, people have different ways of dealing with things.

It’s really important that you listen to your loved one during this time, and don’t push them into doing anything they aren’t willing to do. This cancer will be something that’s out of their control, so ensuring they still have control over their next steps is crucial. It’s also important that you listen to them when you can so that, if there comes a time where they aren’t able to make a decision themselves, you can do what they would have wanted.

Of course, you can be a guiding hand, giving them tools and ideas, but don’t push them into anything, or make them feel guilty for not doing something you wish them to. Unless they have specifically said that they’d like you to make all the decisions, be sure to honour this request.

6.   Provide Practical Help

Whilst being an emotional rock has its benefits, you can also be a practical rock too, providing physical aid where required. For example, buying groceries, taking them to appointments, cooking dinner, helping with household chores, and babysitting children can all help massively.

7.   Have Fun

Yes, this will be a difficult time for you, but don’t forget about having fun, whether that’s by yourself or with your loved one. Don’t always live with what’s coming ahead in mind, but consider the now – make plans, enjoy good food, gatherings, and quality time together, thinking about what your loved one enjoys most.


A Cancer Diagnosis Won’t Be Easy…

There’s no denying that this will be a very difficult time for you, but it’s naturally doing to be much more difficult for your loved one. During this time, you should aim to be a pillar of support for them, without letting your own feelings outshine how they’re doing.

You should also find ways to take care of them, be it through practical help or organizing fun activities they might enjoy. Life will go on, despite this diagnosis, so it’s important to live in the moment and not on what may be round the corner.

If you or your loved one is seeking support, there are plenty of avenues for this out there. Macmillan Cancer Support can provide some more information.