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25 Ways to Cope When a Loved One Has Cancer

Keep on shining!

Keep on shining!

You'll Find Strength When You Least Expect It

"Stay strong" are two words that, at times, irritate me. People often say those words to those who are battling cancer, are caring for a loved one, or have recently lost someone they care deeply for.

It's possible that this is their way of giving a person strength, comfort, and solace. Or they are at a loss for words and feel "stay strong" seems suitable to say.

What irks me about hearing "stay strong" is . . . isn't that obvious? Certainly, no one who receives a diagnosis of cancer should instantly become weak. Times of weakness are bound to happen, but that's OK. For now . . . yes, one must stay strong. You don't have time to collapse into a fetal position and give up. You must fight to the death.

Due to being a caregiver to my mother and my husband, I've learned how to be strong, stay positive, and find a way to tackle the many decisions and options that cancer patients are offered. I've also learned how to handle options that aren't offered and find a way to have them available.

I hope that my advice is of comfort to you during your time of crisis. I won't say, "Stay strong," I'll suggest that you "keep on shining."

A hibiscus flower means life and hope to me.

A hibiscus flower means life and hope to me.

25 Ways to Cope as a Caregiver

  1. Take care of yourself. Your support is crucial for the comfort of the patient. This doesn't mean that you can't collapse and have a good cry. Cry as often as needed. Expressing emotions is a healthy sign of strength.
  2. Don't take no for an answer. If you strongly feel there is something that could possibly help your situation, then by all means . . . speak up.
  3. Believe in miracles. They happen, more often than you think.
  4. Exercise. Whether it's a stroll around your neighborhood or a bike ride. Appreciate the outdoors—the sunshine, flowers, and stars at night. Allow your strength to rejuvenate from mother nature.
  5. Eat healthy. Prepare meals ahead of time and make extra for leftovers. If you don't have an appetite, drink protein supplements such as Boost and Ensure. A proper diet is important to keep your strength intact.
  6. Have a hobby that helps distract you, even for a few moments. Allow time for yourself. Lose yourself in your activity. Don't allow any distractions. This is your time to love yourself.
  7. Routine is important, but it's OK to break out of routine every now and then.
  8. One day at a time. Appreciate each and every day. Try your best not to worry about tomorrow. Next week. Next month. That's pointless and only causes anxiety and stress.
  9. Be here now. This is very important to remember. Your mind might want to wander back to yesterday and "what if's"—again, that's pointless. What's done is done and can not be undone. Forward is the only way.
  10. Buy a planner or journal. Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to remember appointments or medical history. Take notes at each doctor visit. Request a copy of all tests and lab work. This way, you don't have to cause unneeded stress on yourself trying to remember. You'll have everything with you in folders.
  11. Familiarize yourself with the medical professionals who are caring for your loved ones. Make sure your voice is heard at appointments. Don't be a wallflower. Your strength and drive will impress the doctors. Or annoy them, but that's OK too.
  12. You will have good days and bad days. Welcome the good days with open arms. As for the bad days, realize that they aren't permanent and welcome those also. We all have bad days, whether one is healthy or not.
  13. Remember that we will die. Accept that. By accepting this, you will be more prepared when the time does come.
  14. Grieve beforehand. This does help many people. Prepare yourself. Don't be in denial.
  15. Let go of things you can't control: What's going to happen will happen no matter how much you fight it.
  16. Continue to make memories. Treasure memories from your past. Once all is said and done, memories are what you will have to carry in your heart and mind. Those memories will keep you smiling when you are sad. They will warm you on a cold day. They will make you realize that life is good, even when times are so tough.
  17. Make treatments entertaining. Yes, you can find humor in cancer. Don't allow it to zap your spirit while it's zapping your energy. Zap it back.
  18. Pray. Ask friends and family to pray for you or with you. Having faith gives you strength.
  19. Focus on priorities. Focus on your loved one and yourself. Everyone and everything else comes next. Set limits. It's OK to say no.
  20. Rest your mind, body, and soul as often as you can. Lack of sleep and relaxation will rob your strength. You need to pamper your strength so that it has your back when you need it.
  21. You are stronger than you think you are. You will often find yourself in a situation and wonder, "How did I get through that?" What doesn't kill us does make us stronger.
  22. Yesterday is over. Today is your gift. Use it wisely. Do something fun. Be a rebel.
  23. Join support groups. There are many online groups and most likely many groups in your area. Check with local hospitals. Online support groups are available 24/7. Chances are, no matter what time of the day it is, you'll find someone available in the group who is willing to listen. Draw strength from friends, family, and fellow supporters . . . in other words, your Team.
  24. Positive thinking. There is no other way to think. In times of doubt or despair, always remember the positive moments that will far outweigh the negative.
  25. Bad things happen to good people. We don't know why, but we must learn to accept it. What we do know is that as tough as life might be when fighting cancer, you are and always will be a champion. Champions are winners.

Story of My Hibiscus Flower

You might wonder why I chose a photo of a hibiscus flower for this article. I did so because this flower represents life to me. It stands for hope.

Three years ago, this bush was damaged during a Florida freeze. I never gave up hope that this bush would one day bloom again. My husband wanted to remove the bush. It was dead. I said it was alive and well.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered the first buds. My husband was shocked. I was elated. We both were thrilled. I got to say, "I told you so!"

The day I discovered the first flower (posted above), my newest granddaughter was born. Her name is Lily. She is our gift. My daughter opted out of naming her, Hibiscus :)

This brings me to my final bit of advice: Always find the humor in any situation. Never allow your smile to be dimmed by the enemy. Shine so brightly that others around you shine through you.

Life is good. Hope is real. Be strong. You don't have to "stay strong." You just do the best you are able to. Most of all, I believe that miracles do happen.

Keep on shining.

Keep on Shining . . .

Keep on Shining . . .

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    Dedicated to helping persons who face cancer. Supports research, patient services, early detection, treatment, and education. Contact us anytime day or night at 1-800-227-234.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Linda Bilyeu


KaranSingh703758 on March 26, 2019:

Stay positive and fight cancer.

Read more on cancer here:

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 08, 2014:

Hi Jools, Be Here Now is something we should all try our best to practice daily. Or, at least weekly. Thank you!

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on March 08, 2014:

Wonderful article Linda - 'Be here now!' is one of many excellent pieces of advice which stand out here. Your personal experiences have shaped this article honestly and its advice is invaluable.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on January 17, 2014:

So sad Jane. I wish the best for your friend. Your husband is a extradionary man to be there for his friend during his cancer battle. Thank you for sharing.

Jane Arden on January 17, 2014:

What an excellent hub and so encouraging. We heard today that a friend of ours has cancer in his chest. The poor guy has no family, so my husband is next of kin. The doctors rang my husband today to ask him to come to the hospital as they were trying to give our friend the diagnosis but he wasn't wanting to listen as it freaked him out so much. Obviously - my husband went to see him straight away!

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 26, 2013:

When you're ill, sometimes strength can be found in little things like the fact that you get out of bed and get dressed, or take your meals at the table with your family instead of in bed. Strength comes in many forms, sometimes silent or understated. I wish you all the best that life has to offer. This is a lovely hub.

geegee77 from The Lone Star State!! on December 19, 2013:

Hey there stranger! It's been ages since I've been on here, forgive me I really love this hub it has helped me today, I believe a higher power brought me to this today as ive been feeling kind of depressed about some stuff. Thank you for always cheering me up without even trying! ♥ Great hub my friend.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on October 14, 2013:

Awesome hub. Last month we learned that my mom's breast cancer has returned after 7 years and is now in her liver. I'm sure we will be looking to your wisdom and strength as we deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on September 04, 2013:

Keep shining....I like that. I hope I never have to use these tips, but I think I will remember one day at a time the most. Thanks!

Barbara Badder from USA on April 07, 2013:

This is great advice. My sister died of cancer and my husband survived it. I hope I don't need your advice in the future though.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 06, 2013:

Hi Linda,

We have had several friends who have survived cancer and others who have lost the battle. When fighting cancer or some other grave disease, it is important to have an attitude such as you have expressed in this hub, both for the caretaker and/or the patient. If one lives long enough, we will all face challenges. Attitude is everything! Nice that your hibiscus came back to grace you with it's beauty. Up and useful votes.

UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on April 01, 2013:

Keep on shining...another important and helpful hub on this subject. Your hubs like this one help people shine even in some troubled times. Keep up the good work and enjoy each day.

Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on March 25, 2013:


The name Dave gave very apt. Your positive attitude continually shines through. I'm honored to have met you.

Nell Rose from England on March 23, 2013:

Linda your hub was amazing, your strength always shines through, and the flower was the ultimate proof that we never know when something will turn out good, wonderful, nell

Susan Britton from Ontario, Canada on March 18, 2013:

I am grateful to have inspired you to write this hub Sunshine. Your experienced tips are helping so many as well as myself be the best they can be to help friends and family. Thank you again.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 18, 2013:

Teaches, Thank you for your comment. Without hope we have nothing. Keep on shining!

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 18, 2013:

healthylife, Oh my...the steroids. They could be brutal even in a small dosage. The mind games. I know how well you could understand how and when to "stay strong" I continue to wish you a healthy life!:)

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 18, 2013:

Hi Shauna, I also wish the blooms of the hibiscus would last longer. My granddaughter discovered a daisy under the hibiscus bush yesterday. She was elated! My husbands planted 4 gerber daisy's and one or two pop up each spring and surprise us.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 18, 2013:

Thank you AV. I'm doing my best! :)

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 18, 2013:

Hi Mary, are blessed and I'm happy for you. I hope you never have to deal with losing a loved one to cancer. Thank you for your kind comment.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 18, 2013:

Hi Alocsin, I'm sorry to hear about your mom. It seems the longer one lives with cancer due to all the new treatments that are available, the stubborn cancer continues to find a new place to pester the patient. I wish her good luck and I hope she kicks cancer to the curb very soon.

Dianna Mendez on March 18, 2013:

Linda, your Hibiscus flower story really touched my heart. How wonderful a sign of hope for each of you. The blessing of a grandchild adds so much to a life. Thank you for sharing hope with all readers.

healthylife2 on March 17, 2013:

As always you are right on point. I agree that you can't have the pressure to always stay strong but just allow yourself to feel whatever you feel at the moment. When fighting cancer there is no choice but to be strong and that is obvious to anyone that has actually gone through it. Then steroids are often thrown into the mix and can result in crazy emotions so easier to take it all one day at a time.Keep shining on!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 17, 2013:

Linda, this is great advice. I hope I never have to draw strength from it, but it will resonate if I ever have the need.

Love you Hibiscus. I have one, too in my front garden. It's a red-orange variety and absolutely lovely. I just wish the blooms lasted more than a couple of days.

American View from Plano, Texas on March 16, 2013:

Great Hub as always. Let me just say, Keep on Shining my friend

Mary Hyatt from Florida on March 16, 2013:

I've told you before, and I will tell you again: I admire you so much for you're always positive attitude and your enduring smile. I don't know how you do it all!

I have been blessed not to loose a family member with cancer, but I worked in hospitals enough to know how sad it is when cancer happens in a family.

Voted UP and will share.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 16, 2013:

This hub comes at an excellent time for me because my mom seems to be getting a relapse of the cancer -- unfortunately, at the base of the skull. She is currently in the hospital where she has difficulty eating because the food there is less than palatable. (She only eats when visitors bring her things.) Hopefully, the dietitians can come up with something edible. Voting this Up and Useful.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 15, 2013:

Hi drbj, I appreciate your kind words.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 15, 2013:

Thanks Alecia. I know how well you could relate. It's all about Teamwork.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 15, 2013:

Hi Bobbi, You are officially my sister! Thank you very much for your comment. Keep on shining :)

drbj and sherry from south Florida on March 14, 2013:

Your graphic of the hibiscus flower which survived is the perfect symbol of hope, Linda. Thank you for these realistic, meaningful suggestions on coping.

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on March 14, 2013:

Great advice! Cancer is one of the most sinister battles one can fight but it is worth fighting. This is something everyone needs to read who has ever dealt with cancer. Awesome job!

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on March 14, 2013:


Ditto Plus---You have make HubPages so enjoyable for me and many others. You would be a great sister. May you aways walk in Sunshine with Angels to protect you and yours.

A Friend Always,


Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Hi SAA, It's easy for me to sparkle with friends like you! Thank you for the sunshine and the kiss! :))

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Hi Travmaj, I appreciate your kind words!

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Hi Kashmir...Thank you for your comment!

Martie Coetser from South Africa on March 14, 2013:

Linda, I am so touched by this hub of yours I don't know what to say. You are amazing!

Best advice ever....

Don't ever lose your sparkle!

Your ability to encourage and support is truly admirable and to be obtained by all of us...

Sending you a bag of sunshine from SA and lots of hugs to all of you and a kiss on the cheek for Dave -:)

travmaj from australia on March 14, 2013:

Such sound advise - words from the heart, so true so right, so honest, so hopeful. Certainly relate to the issues. Thank you for this. Thoughts to you and your family - keep on shining. Best wishes....

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on March 14, 2013:

Hi my friend, great advice within this well written article. Well Done !

Vote up and more !!!

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Amy, Your mother is blessed to have you on her team. Thanks for sharing your advice with others who will benefit from you taking the time to share. I wish your mom the best. She sounds like a wonderful woman, just like her daughter.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Thank you LaLiz for sharing your thoughts. That's correct...keep on shining!

Amy Becherer from St. Louis, MO on March 14, 2013:

I love your attitude, Sunshine. It glows off this page in glory. I am helping my mother, who has been impacted by dementia. I think it stems from the shock of my dad's death 10 years ago and was further impacted by the bypass heart surgery she had 2 years ago. I use everyone of your well concieved list of suggestions here. I go into the exam room, with my mom's permission and appreciation, and take notes and file copies of test results in a constantly updated folder. In addition, as my mother is still capable of living alone in her home but doesn't trust her memory to take her prescribed meds, I have created and generate 'med sheets' that are dated for each day and have each medication listed with a line to check off as she takes the med. I make them up by the month and she relies on them for not only a daily reminder of her meds, but doctor appts. and notations about changing the clocks (which I do for her), etc. This gives my mom, who was diagnosed with OCD late in life, enormous peace of mind.

I think, though well meaning, platitudes give friends a feeling that they are helping sustain the caregiver when they are, in fact, at a loss for words. I've found that until most people actually experience the role of a caregiver, the difficulty is often beyond their wildest dreams. Those that are caregivers are often initially surprised themselves and devise methods to give some small measure of predictability to the inordinately all-consuming task of caring for loved ones.

Thank you for a profoundly pragmatic yet loving approach to caring for a loved one while maintaining one's own sense of self. Your loved ones are immeasurably blessed by having you onboard, Linda.

LaThing from From a World Within, USA on March 14, 2013:

Beautiful, Linda! The suggestions are something to ponder upon. So many of us just give up, because we can't remain strong...... But the whole point is to 'Keep on Shining'! Beautiful!! Your wise words are very helpful.... Will pass it around.....

Take care, and hugs from here :)

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

You are a wonderful woman Bobbi. I would love to have you as a family member, I would adopt you if that was possible :) Your aunt is blessed to have you in her life. I wish her the best. Keep on shining!

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Hi Peg, I have become better with avoiding "what-if's" yet they still linger from time to time. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Thank you Jools from across the pond! :)

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Mary, Re-grouping is vital. Replenish the mind, body and soul. I kow how well you understand. Thank you.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on March 14, 2013:


You know how to shine “Sunshine” into one’s darkness shadows. I am now going through this with my 88 year old aunt and her various stages and treatment for her cancer.

With my sister and my aunt I had to smile when I only wanted to cry---but instead I was their crutch to lean on---and I only hope I can remain strong in the days I know are coming to stare me in the face.

Thank you for sharing this hub as it has helped me this very day---to cry my tears and keeping smiling because she looks into my eyes for her strength and will to go on.

I voted up---useful, beautiful and awesome.

Your Grateful Friend,

Bobbi Purvis

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Pamela, I'm still trying to practice what I preach. It's very important to take care of yourself also. I hope others always remember that.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Your prayers are appreciated Vellur.

Deb, I remind him how lucky he is on a daily basis! :)

Steph, I'm sure you had many insightful words for your loved ones. I'm sorry for your losses, but along the way you learned. Thank you!

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Suzzycue, I'm wishing the best to you and Marylou. Thank you for inspiring me to write this hub. I hope it helps many along their journey. Keep shining!

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Your comments are appreciated Janine, Michelle and Martin.

Thank you Arun for adding your words of wisdom.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2013:

Thank you Audra!:)

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on March 14, 2013:

Linda, your article has it all - it is useful, it is honest, it is hopeful too. Caring for a loved one with cancer takes special strength and spirit and you have both is spades. Your article is all the better because it is a personal account of supporting someone with cancer; I hope others read it and learn from it - I did. My best to you and yours x

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 14, 2013:

These are important discoveries, Linda. In caring for others it is key to take care of ourselves. I like your number 9, which is really important for us all whether facing these situations or not. And 10 is something which has helped me in numerous ways over the years in keeping track of the dates, procedures, medications and doctors. It becomes overwhelming if I try to remember it all.

I love hibiscus plants and grew up with them when I lived in Florida. They are an example of resilience for sure. Your pics are gorgeous. And so are you.

Very useful hub packed with good ideas.

Mary Craig from New York on March 14, 2013:

Let the sun shine! Words of wisdom my dear, for all to listen and take to heart. Strength is inner and as you've said, breaking down, taking time to re-group, walking away for a while are not signs of weakness but of strength in the north the hibiscus amazes me each year as it comes back bigger and stronger! God bless.

Voted up, useful, interesting, and awesome. Oh, and shared.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 14, 2013:

Linda, Your suggestions are outstanding. I am so glad you wrote this hub as it has helped me, and I know it will help others. Your first thing on the list is so important. I watched my mother and a couple of my best friends who ended up hospitalized and very ill after they lost their loved one. It is like they help themselves together when they absolutely had to, then they suffered the results of not caring for themselves. Voted up and awesome.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on March 14, 2013:

This is a beautiful and awesome hub, Linda. I wish that I had had your wise words of advice when dealing with cancer that struck my best friend, my Dad and my sister-in-law all within a year. Somehow we find the strength to do what needs to be done when dealing with cancer. It's not easy. It's also not easy to know what to say to someone who is dealing with it, though we desperately want to help and support. I'll remember your hibiscus flower as a symbol of hope, miracles and positivity.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on March 14, 2013:

Your husband is so lucky to have you on his side, Linda. It seems you have enough strength for a whole army. Keeping a positive outlook must feed that strength. And I love the story of the hibiscus plant!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 14, 2013:

The power of positive thinking really helps. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You are strong and brave. Praying that you will become braver and stronger each and every day.

Susan Britton from Ontario, Canada on March 14, 2013:

Thank you Sunshine. I was thinking I was weak for breaking down and crying so much but now I know it is ok and I can help Marylou shine. I learned a lot here and I love Hibiscus. They are a hearty plant. I will think of hibiscus flowers to be strong. One day at a time is easier.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on March 14, 2013:

Thank you for this. I don't have cancer, but some of these fit me.


Excellent piece with a beautiful message! Let me add-

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain. We all have sorrow. But if we are wise we know that there's always tomorrow. Thank you for sharing.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on March 13, 2013:

Linda, this is beautiful...and so important. Sharing!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on March 13, 2013: