Ten tips to comfort someone with cancer

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Source of comfort: Hand-holding and hugging can be some of the more reassuring gestures to somebody facing a cancer diagnosis. | FILE PHOTO

Learning about a cancer diagnosis can be one of the toughest moments in a person’s life. Trying to help and comfort that person can prove to be almost as difficult.

Amy Jo Steinbruecker, media relations manager at American Cancer Society’s Illinois division, provides a list of things you can do to help keep a cancer patient at peace.

1. Don’t talk – It’s really important to be able to be there and listen for the patient. Let them take the lead and don’t judge them. Try to hear and understand what they’re saying and how they feel.

“Don’t try to change their mind and correct what they’re saying,” Steinbruecker said. “Just listen. Sometimes it is hard for people to be just OK with silence. You’re just there to support them.”

2. Maintain eye contact – Gives person the feeling you are present with them and are actively listening.

3. Be open to talk whenever.

“Let them know you are there and let it be on their schedule,” Steinbruecker said.

4. Don’t say “I know how you feel.”

“Unless you’ve walked in their shoes, you don’t,” Steinbruecker said, “and that could really upset them.”

5. Touch them – If the relationship is appropriate, hand holding and hugging can be some of the more reassuring gestures.

6. Keep their past routines.

“Play cards or go to the movies,” Steinbruecker said. “Do normal things as long as their health allows them to do them. They’re still a person, not just a cancer patient.”

Be cognizant of their energy level and make sure they’re comfortable with the setting.

7. Encourage other friends to visit – Share these tips with others. They might not be comfortable talking, but maybe they can babysit, send a card or go to the grocery store for the patient.

8. Don’t say “What can I do for you?”

“People generally don’t like to ask for favors,” Steinbruecker said. “Instead of asking them, tell them what you’re going to do for them.”

9. Make a regular visiting schedule.

“It is not just a diagnosis,” said Steinbruecker. “Cancer is a very lonely and ongoing experience.”

10. There are no rules.

“These are just suggestions,” Steinbruecker said. “Each person’s experience is unique. Your compassion and general caring are the most important things you can express.”

For 24/7, 365 days a year support, cancer patients, caregivers or anyone with questions can call 800-227-2345. Someone is always on call to be there to answer questions or to talk.

Follow Matthew Schwerha on Twitter @MatthewSchwerha