Helping a Loved One With GI Cancer

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Guest blogger Scott Sanders is the creator of CancerWell.org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer. He is also the author of the book Put Yourself First: A Guide to Self-care and Spiritual Wellness During and After Cancer Treatment.

Learning that someone you love has gastrointestinal cancer is tremendously difficult. Currently, you are likely feeling immense sadness and are looking for ways to help him/her during this difficult time. In the following article, we explore some of the most effective ways you can support a loved one throughout his/her gastrointestinal cancer treatment.

Learn More:
Gastrointestinal cancer includes cancers of the colon, intestines, stomach, liver, and pancreas. The number of different gastrointestinal cancers means that there is a wide range of symptoms and treatments. Supporting your loved one starts with learning more about the cancer itself, treatment processes, and how other people are living with the illness. By researching your loved one’s specific situation, you show him/her that you care and want to help. By understanding the illness, you are better able to offer appropriate support. 

Help with the Day-to-Day:
No matter what treatment stage your friend or family member is at, he/she is sure to benefit from practical help with day-to-day activities. Practical help includes driving him/her to treatment appointments, following-up with doctors and medical offices, and picking-up medications. Your loved one will also benefit immensely from you taking on the burden of errands, cleaning, and cooking. Picking up groceries, preparing meals, doing laundry, and cleaning the house can reduce stress and allow more time for relaxation. If your loved one has a pet, offer to take on feeding, walking, vet appointments, and cleaning up. Some people may be very vocal about what day-to-day help they need, while others may be hesitant to ask for help. If your loved one is not forthcoming with how you can help, try to make educated guesses about what he/she might need. 

Offer Comfort:
If you want to support your loved one throughout the treatment process, ensure his/her living space is cozy, friendly, and comfortable. To do this, you can begin by bringing movies, books, magazines, games, or puzzles and decorating the area with bright colors and flowers. As a friend or family member, you likely know what makes your loved one happy, whether that’s pets, socializing, board games, or sports. Be sure to make these activities available to him/her and encourage them to be vocal about what they want. If your friend/family member was told to eat and drink certain foods, stock the kitchen with these items. Living in a comfortable environment can strengthen your loved one’s resolve, facilitate rest, and show him/her that you genuinely care about his/her well-being. 

Encourage Meditation:
Individuals with gastrointestinal cancer often live in a state of pain and discomfort, and as a result, they might find it difficult to relax, sleep, and eat. While symptoms are dependent on the type and severity of the cancer, evidence suggests that meditation can reduce the frequency and severity of pain. Meditation facilitates relaxation, which, in turn, changes the way people process pain. The immense concentration required by meditation encourages individuals to focus on breathing rather than other sensations. By encouraging your loved one to incorporate meditation into their treatment regime, you may play an important role in reducing his/her chronic pain and discomfort. If he/she seems receptive to meditation, you can provide additional support by setting up an at-home meditation space. 

Individuals going through gastrointestinal cancer treatment require the support of their friends and family. Learning more about the illness, helping him/her with day-to-day errands, facilitating comfort, and encouraging meditation are just some of the ways you can show your friend or family member you care. By reading this article, you are well on your way to being a strong support for the person you love. 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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