A Key To Cancer Recovery is Emotional Support
According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 238,000 men will be diagnosed with new cases of prostate cancer this year. Prostate cancer is leading incidence in the U.S. of this terrible disease.
Second on the list is breast cancer, which will effect greater than 234,580 women and men. The daily batle against cancer is an enormous one, as about 13.7 million Americans are currently living with cancer or have a history of cancer.
So whether you have a loved one, friend or co-worker dealing with cancer, just as important as the medical treatment they undergo is the emotional support they receive.
Dr. Niki Barr is pioneering cancer psychotherapist and was quoted, “Friends, family, co-workers – they can all play an important role in helping a cancer patient’s recovery simply by providing emotional support.”
Once someone is diagnosed with cancer, it’s critical they receive social support to help them deal with the disease and let them know they are not alone. In a National Institutes of Health report, it’s been proven that social support such as emotional support, does positively influence health outcomes.
Barr continues, “Even if you’re not among the person’s closest friends or family, you can help far more than you imagine simply by being encouraging and supportive.”
During her career, Barr has learned from her patients there are several commonon things that consistently do benefit them:
• Make your offer of help specific. “Call me if you need anything at all,” puts the burden on your loved one – who already carries a tremendous burden! Instead, you might offer to make dinner for her family on Wednesday night and ask what meal everyone enjoys. Or volunteer to drive him to his doctor appointment on Monday afternoon. This makes it easy for your friend to politely accept or decline your offer, and it ensures you provide the assistance you feel comfortable providing.
• Sometimes saying nothing at all says everything. If your friend or loved one wants to talk about her treatments, complain about his situation, or not talk at all, being a good listener or simply a quiet presence speaks volumes. When a person complains, many of us jump to “help” by suggesting solutions. That’s likely not what your friend or loved one is looking for. As my patients have said time and time again, sometimes they just want to get it all off their chest. An empathetic listener is all the help they need.
• If you’re not sure what to say, err on the side of being positive. Don’t say what you don’t know – for instance, you don’t know that everything is going to be just fine. But if you admire your loved one’s strength or sense of humor, if your friend’s attitude inspires you, tell them so. We all benefit from hearing a sincere compliment.
• Not sure what to talk about? Follow his lead. Some days, my patients want to talk only about their illness, the treatment they’re undergoing, and how they feel. Other days, they want to talk about anything BUT cancer. We all have days when we’re immersed in our own lives and other days when we want to be distracted – or to just feel normal.
According to Barr, “When a person who’s going through what may be the most difficult, stressful event of their lives knows that you care, it makes a difference. If you’re truly at a loss for words, it never hurts to simply say, I’m thinking about you.”
Niki Barr, Ph.D. founded a pioneering psychotherapy practice that’s devoted to helping cancer patients in all the various stages of the disease.
She also works with their family members, caregivers and friends. Barr adds, “I remind my patients often to refuse to listen to cancer ‘horror stories,’ so please, don’t tell those!”