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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

How To Be Helpful When A Loved One Is Sick

By Nate Kolmodin

My name is Nate Kolmodin. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2004.

After recently learning about her journey through breast. cancer, I find it important to share my mother's story, as well as mine. Today, I will discuss how to be helpful when a loved one is sick. If you are interested in my other articles, check out Exercise is Good For Everyone.

Feeling helpless is normal, but you are not alone. Cancer is incredibly daunting, and when dealing with it, it’s important to find people in your life who are willing to sacrifice a lot of time, energy, and emotions just to make sure you’re comfortable. You need assistance, and there are always friends, social groups, and loved ones who will do anything for you at the drop of a hat.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. More often than not, people are more than happy to help someone in need, especially those they love.


Don’t be afraid to accept help. Cancer is hard enough, but asking for the help you need can be just as painful.


Don’t feel obligated to do things. If you feel those around you aren’t being considerate of your needs, then consider distancing yourself.


Don’t feel bad about becoming distant from those who aren’t as thoughtful or oblivious to your condition; you need people who will listen to you.

It’s the people who offered unsolicited help who matter the most. Living through traumatic events like this, you discover the friends who matter the most. Those who become distant may be scared of getting hurt by the potential loss of someone close to them and may not offer help. This does not mean they don't want to help you, you just have to tell them how to help you.


When my mother was receiving treatment she had a whole cast of characters come together to help her. It was hard for her to speak up and tell anyone what she was feeling and what would make her feel better. Luckily, my mother had, and has, a champion of a husband to help her along the way. My father was at every single one of her doctor’s appointments for 2 years and had to juggle work and two newborn children at the time (my sister and I). We would constantly have Synagogue members, cancer support groups, neighbors, and friends making meals for our family because of how busy my parents were. Finding time to cook a meal for 4 people was hard for my dad. Even the simplest meals were highly appreciated. Unsolicited kindness can change someone’s day. Even the mailman offered to help by walking the mail up to our door (we have a mountainous driveway).


In time, when anybody asked if my mom needed anything, she learned to speak up and let them know: “If you could make us dinner one night this week, that would really help us out.” And don’t be afraid to be specific either. For example, if you have a food allergy, or if you kids are vegetarian, let the person know in advance! It’s really important to listen to the patient, to successfully care for them. You have to work for them, listen to what they need, and do the best you can to help.

P.S. Don’t wait. Show thanks to those who do the most.




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