breast cancer awareness on teal wooden surface
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

Despite that there are currently millions of people living with cancer, hearing those words – receiving the diagnosis – can be intensely isolating. Family and friends want to help, but it can be hard to accept their offers.

Even your spouse may suddenly feel distant when you cross over into the land of the sick. You can’t dwell in this isolation for too long, though, because if you’re going to navigate cancer treatment, you’re going to need a community.

Your family and friends and even fellow cancer treatments all play central roles in supporting you through your treatment and recovery, so take a deep breath and invite them in. They can provide emotional and physical care during this time and lift a great burden off your shoulders – if you’ll let them.

Living With Fear

After being diagnosed with cancer, your worries become your constant companions, and your fear can be isolating.

Many cancer patients constantly worry about the possibility that their cancer will metastasize or that it won’t respond to drugs, while those in remission may fear a recurrence. Don’t just dwell on these feelings, though; acknowledge them to those around you and ask for their support.

They may not be able to assure you everything will be fine, but they can hold your hand, accompany you to appointments, and help you research new treatments. Everyone needs at least one confidant among their support network, someone who will take in all your worries without projecting them back at you.

Create A Cohort

While it’s natural to reach out to family and friends when coping with a cancer diagnosis, you’ll also find that your illness connects you with a new community – other people with cancer.

Talk to other patients at your treatment center or attend a support group to meet others with similar worries, as well as seasoned patients who can offer their reassurances. You might also build a cohort of fellow patients by attending retreats for cancer patients and their families.

These programs offer countless valuable workshops and educational sessions, but the friends you make at such a retreat are truly indispensable.

Appoint An Organizer

When you have cancer, everyone wants to help, but very few know what to do. They need direction, so appoint someone the leader and let them take control.

The organizer can let people know what you need, whether that’s meals to keep in the freezer, a ride to treatment, or someone to walk your dog. Websites like CaringBridge can even help your key organizer track who has stepped up to help, update people on your condition, and take the stress off of you.

Keep Them Talking

You need support while undergoing cancer treatment, but your support system needs care too. The key? Ring theory. Ring theory is a principle that says comfort goes in toward the center of the circle of illness – you – and stress, complaints, and other negative emotions go outward.

Your support system should never create additional stress for you, and those who are further from you, such as distant friends, shouldn’t create more stress for your family. There’s a hierarchy; your support system needs support of their own. It’s a complex and vital network.

It takes strength to ask for help, but when you’re living with cancer, it’s also absolutely necessary. Create a support system that will care for you and for each other. No one should have to fight cancer alone.