The patient's greatest need is to have the support of someone like you!

1. Keep communication open but be a good listener. Allow them to express their emotions without criticism.

2. Show empathy and reassure them that your relationship will not change, and that you will commit to them emotionally and physically.

3. Take care of yourself and develop your own support system. Eat well, exercise, and treat yourself gently.

4. Don't ever make them feel like it is their fault for being sick. Don't try to tell them what to do. This will increase pressures on them.

5. Blessed are the flexible for they cannot be broken. You will wear many hats. Be flexible to perform other roles without replacing the patient's purpose in life.

6. At times you need to be motivator/coach. Remember this may be different every day. Take your cues from the patient.

7. Be eyes, ears, and voice when the patient is overwhelmed. Weed through tough information and call 1-800-4CANCER or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 when looking for answers.

8. Accompany the patient to medical appointments and take notes to reaffirm doctors' orders. Be a sounding board for later discussions.

9. Consider a family pet. It's a great family diversion, but consult with the patient's physician before purchase.

10. At home, get help with the children, the meals, the house, answering the phone, and talking to friends and family. Ask a church group, neighbors, family friends, or a service group for help.

11. Support partners need to support, not lead, in decision-making. The patient must have control. Remember, this is their life, their body, and their future.

12. Be prepared to be the one that takes the anger on bad days. When the patient pushes away, hold them tighter.

13. When I had my husband remarried to the young widow down the block and I expressed it freely, my husband put a stop to it one day by simply stating "It's going to be pretty hard getting remarried when you're always hanging around." Be honest and look for humor wherever you can.

14. If you are a spouse, reassure them that this crisis will not change your love for, or attraction, to them as a mate or a person. Be very honest with your doctors if you are having intimacy problems. Example: If you're having sexual dysfunction, don't say you are fatigued.

15. The best medicine...verbalize your love and support for them. Be creative, write it, say it, or show it by your actions.

The only thing worse than being diagnosed with cancer is watching someone you love going through it. As a caregiver you experience many of the same emotions. These tips are not intended to replace medical advice but hopefully to help you come to a better understanding of the important role you've been given. As a patient.

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