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Being an Emotional Anchor to Cancer Patients

Written by MSD in the Philippines

A cancer diagnosis can trigger a rollercoaster of emotions for patients – fear, sadness, anger, anxiety and a whole lot more. The emotional burden of suffering from this illness must be considered and addressed, as much as its physical and financial impact on the patient.

Coping with this life-changing disease requires concerted efforts between you as the caregiver and your patient. In our previous blog about “How to Apply for Cancer Medical Assistance in the Philippines” we also discussed different forms of medical assistance in the Philippines for cancer patients. You may visit our blog here: cancer-medical-assistance-in-philippines/ to know more about health assistance in the Philippines.

Here are some of the things that you can do to help your loved one cope:

Acknowledge their emotions

Some cancer patients experience different stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial happens when the patient goes through shock or becomes too overwhelmed with the news of his/her diagnosis. This is considered a healthy response. Be on guard if the patient refuses to address critical issues about the condition.

Anger is another outgrowth of grief. It can crop up anytime such as after a diagnosis or even during recovery after successful treatment. Changes in the patient’s lifestyle and feelings of helplessness can trigger this feeling.

Bargaining arises when patients promise a change in lifestyle like eating a healthier diet, devoting more time for family or strengthening specific religious beliefs in exchange for recovery.

Depression or sadness is somehow expected but caregivers must be on guard if a patient shows: failure to thrive despite a positive prognosis, symptoms that need medical attention, or suicidal thoughts/lack of motivation to live. If this is the case, seek necessary expert help.

Acceptance begins when patients finally come to terms that cancer is a reality and it is now part of their lives.

There is no specific timeline for these stages. Some patients may experience the entire phase, some may skip certain emotions, while others revert back to the initial stages even after acceptance.


Sometimes, a patient just needs an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. Don’t patronize them or worse, brush aside their fears and loneliness.

Understand their treatment options. You may give your advice and opinion on certain matters but at the end of the day, only the patient has the ultimate decision when it comes to treatment options.

Create a support team

Taking care of a sick person may be physically and emotionally exhausting. You may need to enlist the support of other family members, relatives, friends and even neighbors who can contribute their unique sets of skills and strength. The patient will also appreciate the thought that there are many people who care for him/her.

Take care of yourself

There is a saying “you can’t pour from an empty pitcher.” In order to care for others, you must ensure your own wellness, too. Practice self-care. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious food and take occasional time- offs.

Other ways to help a cancer patient cope:.

  • Encourage the patient to start a journal
  • Incorporate a pet for emotional support (doctor’s approval may be necessary depending on the patient’s medical condition)
  • If the patient is willing, let him/her join cancer support groups
  • Let patient practice meditation and relaxation techniques
  • Seek professional help of psychiatrist for the patient if necessary

Most important of all, accept that your lives, as patient and caregiver, will be different from now on. There will be plenty of changes in your normal routine but that does not mean that you cannot live a life as close to normal as possible. You can. Stay positive!


1. Mccauley, Miriam. “Stages of Cancer Grief.” Accessed October 24, 2018.

2. “How to Support Someone with Cancer.” Cancer Research UK. Accessed October 24, 2018.

3. “When Someone You Know Has Cancer.” American Cancer Society. Accessed October 24, 2018.

4. “How to be a friend to someone with cancer.” American Cancer Society. Accessed October 24, 2018.

5. “Supporting a friend who has cancer.” Cancer.Net.

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