Ask before showing up
Chemotherapy can leave people feeling sick, tired, unattractive—and not up for visitors, especially if you’re not immediate family. No matter how badly you want to see the patient, ask if it’s a good time before popping in. “Often it’s this double-edged sword,” says Marleen Meyers, MD, director of the Survivorship Program at the NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center. “We want to see somebody and make sure they’re OK. You also want to feel the person knows you want to see them. On the other hand, the person might not be up for a visit.” If your loved one says he or she is feeling too under the weather to see you, respect that.
Don’t avoid the elephant in the room
Even when they need the emotional support, some people avoid talking about their cancer because they’re afraid it will make their loved ones uncomfortable, Kevin Stein, PhD, vice president of behavioral research and director of the Behavioral Research Center for the American Cancer Society. Instead of walking on eggshells, be open to talking about the survivor’s struggles. “Most cancer survivors want to share what they’re experiencing and want to feel comfortable talking about their feelings,” says Dr. Stein. “Emotional support can be cathartic.” Don’t miss these other things cancer patients wish you knew.