Things To Do When Someone You Love Has Cancer

by Jan Owen James
When someone you love has cancer, you may feel as if you don’t know how to help. The following list was developed by cancer survivors.

Each of us has a primary “love language.” Think about your love language, as well as the love language of your loved one who has cancer, to determine the best thing to do. To discover your love language, observe how you most often express love to others. If you hug everyone you see, your love language may be Physical Touch. Determine what you most often complain about not getting from others. If your spouse goes on a business trip, and you say, “You didn’t bring me anything,” your love language may be Gifts. What do you ask of your loved ones most often? If you crave getting together for lunch or coffee, your love language may be Quality Time. (

Words of Affirmation

Make a phone call! Don’t ever hesitate to call your loved one. If they are sleeping or not feeling well, your call will go to voicemail. Be sure to leave a voicemail so they can hear your cheery voice.

Email regularly that you’re praying for them.

Send uplifting or funny snail mail cards throughout treatment.

Send humor. Whether it’s a funny movie, comedian, or humor on YouTube,laughter is always welcome and a much needed stress reliever.

Fill a recipe box with God’s promises.

Ask how their spouse/caregiver is doing. Ask how their kids are doing.

Collect cards, notes, well wishes from mutual friends, church members, etc. Then deliver or mail all them to the cancer patient.

Deliver inspirational reading material, or record some of their favorite music or hymns on a MP3 player. This helps with relaxation.

When visiting with your loved one, look past the cancer. Remember that life continues while cancer treatment goes on. Your loved one wants to talk about things besides how sick they are and how the treatments are going!

Acts of Service

Following surgery or during chemotherapy, organize meals for the person’s family ( Be sure to deliver meals in containers that don’t need to be returned and can be used in the freezer.

Offer to pick up kids from school on post-chemo days.

Instead of asking how you can help—which can create blank stares—consider offering to use your gifts in specific way

Are you good at organizing? A natural handyman? Love to clean? Available for babysitting? Good at accounting?

Help the person set up a free account. This site helps people stay informed about how you are as well as needs without having to repeat the information countless times in phone calls and email.

Offer to drive the person to medical appointments. Always bring paper and pen to take notes as the doctors and medical personnel give information.

Pick up and drop off laundry.

Create a Facebook prayer page for your loved one. If they are not up to maintaining it, offer to communicate for them there.

Is your loved one struggling to pay bills? Offer to research foundations that provide financial assistance for people with their type of cancer.

If your loved one has cats or dogs, offer to be on regular “poop patrol.” Your loved one may put themselves at risk in doing that chore if their immune system is compromised.


Purchase a six-month subscription to Netflix so the person can watch movies whenever the person is feeling ill. (Downton Abbey marathon, anyone?)

Drop off essentials: anti-bacterial soap, dishwashing liquid, toilet paper, Kleenex, bottled water, etc.

Send gift cards to local grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, movie theatres.

Arrange for a cleaning service once a month. Breast cancer patients can get free housecleaning during treatment from

Give a diary or journal to your loved one so they have a way to express their feelings throughout their treatment.

Quality Time

Send a friend with cancer on a family get-away. Donate airline miles, points toward hotel and rental car, or gift cards.

Provide an opportunity for the family to make memories together.’

Take your friend out of the house for something like lunch, coffee, the park, etc. depending on their health levels. Change of scenery is good! And talk about the things you normally do, not just cancer.

Physical Touch

Pick up a snuggly pair of PJs for post-chemo days. For breast cancer patients, be sure the PJs button up the front.

Chemo makes people’s bodies cold, so pick up some soft hats and cozy blankets as gifts for cuddling.

Things NOT To Do

Avoid talking about friends or relatives who passed away from cancer. Don’t tell cancer stories.

Don’t EVER tell the person with cancer “You just have to keep a positive attitude”! Unless you’ve been where they are, that comment can seem insensitive from someone who’s perfectly healthy.

Avoid saying “I understand.” Unless you’ve had the exact, identical cancer, you don’t understand.

Do not deliver flowers or plants to a loved one whose immune system is compromised. Anything grown in dirt is laden with bacteria and could put your loved one at risk.