4 mins. read

How to support someone going through chemotherapy

supporting someone going through chemo Perci Health

Key takeaways

  • Listening: Allow them to lead the conversation and try not to interrupt while they speak. Remember, it’s okay to ask questions, but avoid wanting to solve their problems. 
  • Offer practical support: Running errands, picking up groceries and doing household chores can help the person going through chemo while giving those caring for them, such as their partner, parent, or child, more time for themselves.
  • Put together a  care package: Useful items such as warm socks, unscented hand cream and herbal tea bags will help to keep them more  comfortable when having treatment.

If you have a family member, friend or colleague who has been diagnosed with cancer and is having chemotherapy, you might wonder what you can do to best support them during this difficult time. While everyone’s experience of cancer treatment, and therefore what they will find helpful, will be different. Our guide provides some useful suggestions.

Be a good listener

Good listening requires presence and thoughtful attention. When someone is going through chemo, they can feel a range of emotions and experience a variety of side-effects. Many people simply want someone to listen to them wholeheartedly if they choose to talk about how they’re feeling.

Things that can help:

  • Turning off distractions, such as the TV or your phone
  • Creating a relaxed, private environment
  • Maintaining eye contact 
  • Letting them lead the conversation
  • Avoiding interrupting them while they are talking
  • Not discussing someone else’s experience of cancer
  • Trying not to give advice unless they ask for it

Offer hands-on support

Practical support can be invaluable for someone going through chemo, as well as anyone involved in their care. Hands-on help can be particularly important if the person having treatment lives on their own, as it can feel overwhelming to manage household responsibilities on top of appointments and recovery.

If you are unsure of what hands-on support will be most valuable, ask. Have an open conversation about when you can offer assistance and what you are happy or able to do.

Ideas for hands-on support for someone going through chemotherapy include:

  • Food shopping
  • Laundry
  • Gardening
  • Picking up children from school
  • Babysitting
  • Cleaning
  • Collecting prescriptions
  • Pet walking
  • Running errands

Go with them to appointments

Offering to take someone to their appointments not only provides support to the person going through chemo but can offer some respite to their primary caregiver, if they have one.

They may want someone to drive them to and from treatment, or they may appreciate you going to appointments with them, for emotional support. During treatment, patients can feel overwhelmed with the amount of information they receive and experience brain fog. Offering to take notes   during appointments can be helpful to refer to at a later date.

Prepare or organise meals

Eating after chemotherapy isn’t always easy as treatment can cause a loss of appetite, taste changes and food aversions. In addition, many people experience fatigue, so don’t  have the energy to cook nutritious meals.

Offering  to cook meals that they can freeze and reheat :

  • What foods they like or can currently stomach
  • If they have any dietary requirements
  • What size of meals they would like
  • If they would appreciate snacks for low-energy days
  • How much fridge/freezer space they have so food doesn’t go to waste

Gifts that might be useful when going through chemotherapy

Whether it’s a co-worker, friend or a member of your family going through chemotherapy, a well thought out gift can help. Chemotherapy has a range of side effects such as:

  • Dry skin and lips
  • Aching legs
  • Joint pain
  • hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and sickness
  • A sore mouth

Chemotherapy treatment can be lengthy and uncomfortable. Here are some ideas to help with treatment:

  • Unscented hand cream and lip balm
  • A reusable hot and cold pack
  • Tissues
  • Warm socks and/or a hat/blanket
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Sensitive toothpaste and alcohol-free mouthwash
  • Books and magazines
  • Colouring books and pencils
  • Herbal tea
  • Noise cancelling headphones

Simply be there

For many people going through chemotherapy, simply knowing that there are people they can reach out to is what really matters. You can offer valuable emotional support just by being there for them. Sending a text or email on a regular basis can really help. You may not get a reply but the person will know that you are thinking of them.

Here at Perci Health, our cancer support specialists are here for anyone affected by cancer. We have a range of virtual support types available including dieticians, counsellors and mindfulness and meditation practitioners, all of which are available to book for on-demand, online appointments. Create a Perci Health account today to find out more information about our leading cancer experts.