What to do when coping with terminal cancer in the family

What to do when coping with terminal cancer in the family

When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, it can change the whole family forever. This is even more heightened when you are given the news that it is a terminal illness where there are no other treatments available to help your loved one.

Suddenly, some questions which the family used to find important, like dinner and weekend plans turn less significant. When a loved one’s health is at risk, it can highlight the true value of family, making family members set new priorities on health and wellbeing for the whole family. It can mean wanting to spend as much time as possible with your loved one.

Coping with terminal cancer in the family is a difficult experience both physically, mentally and emotionally. You are a caregiver, friend or family member are not alone. There are many services, support groups and options available for support.

Knowing or understanding what to do next can be difficult. It can feel like you are all alone or you can feel frustrated with being unable to do something to stop the spread of the cancer. There are many ways you can help your family in such times of difficulties, and thus be the extra support they need.

Coping with terminal cancer in the family

Give emotional support

Knowing how to respond to a family member who’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer is tough. Very often you want to help, but you don’t know how. Emotional support is very important for most patients during their illness and it can be provided from the people closest to them, as well as professionals. Being there is the first and foremost important step to take. Making sure that your loved one understands that you are there to support them every step of the way is important.

It can also be helpful to attend various support groups. Support groups particularly for terminal cancer patients or for family members who has a loved one with terminal cancer can find great support and useful tips on how to give support.

Many people prefer to attend support groups led by therapists or other patients coping with cancer. You can support them by joining them on these sessions or simply be their emotional support and the person they can talk to. Lending your ear can be the most helpful. Allowing your loved one to vent out, share how they feel or to even talk about other things to get their mind off the stress and emotional turmoil can be extremely helpful.

Listening is more important than talking

You may struggle to find the right words to say to someone who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Know that there is no right way to act or perfect words to say, and very often, just listening is more helpful than anything you can say.

Assuring them of your love and support is one of the most important things you can do. Most people with cancer do not want to face the experience alone and they need to know that they have the support from their family. Simply by saying that you are there for them can be the best thing to say and show your support.

Do something concrete

You don’t always have to wait for them to call you and ask for your help. It can be easier for you and your loved one to accept your kindness in action, like accepting a homemade lunch brought into the hospital.

Perhaps there is a bucket list or a list of things they have always wanted to do. Try to incorporate as much fun to make the most of the time you have with each other, to make every day meaningful and happy. There are also charities and programs that offer terminal patients the opportunity to do one thing that they have always dreamed of doing. This can be helpful to help you organize and cover the cost of the experience for your loved one.

Offer support for the closest family

More often than not, close family and friends are also struggling emotionally and physically in the whole experience too. It is important to give your support to them as well. The person who’s diagnosed with cancer isn’t the only one struggling. So, too, are spouses and kids, and we shouldn’t forget about them. Ask how they’re doing, and if appropriate, do something concrete for them, too. You can help by picking up kids from school, or offer to help them with homework, babysit during treatments and much more.

Help with medical fundraising

Many families encounter financial difficulties while battling cancer, particularly if you are looking for experimental treatments or new treatments that are not readily available but may offer new hope. The costs for treatment can easily overwhelm the family budget and become additional burden to the family.

One way to help your loved one or family member when coping with terminal cancer in the family is to start a fundraiser for them. It would not take much of your time but it will provide significant help to the entire family. You can invite other family members and friends to contribute, as well as other members of the community. Relieving the family from the financial concerns can be just that extra support they need in such difficult times.


1) Family Life: http://www.cancer.net/coping-and-emotions/communicating-loved-ones/family-life

2) For Family and Friends: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/family-friends

3) Tips for Family and Friends of Cancer Patients: http://www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/guide/tips-family-friends

4) Coping Within The Family: http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/caregivers-resources/grp-diseases/hsgrp-cancer/coping-within-the-family-article.aspx