How to Be There for a Family Fighting Cancer

June 13, 2024Candlelighters childhood cancer foundation of Nevada

Over the past 17 years, Jacki York, Family Services Manager at Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada, has supported numerous families facing a childhood cancer diagnosis. It can be challenging for friends and family to know how to respond. Here are some tips from York for those looking to support a loved one or dear friend whose child is on a cancer journey.

Offer a listening ear

Parents will be receiving advice from doctors and making crucial decisions about their child's treatment. They will be grappling with fear and other difficult emotions as they work through these decisions. Listen and support their decisions without judgment.

Provide practical help

With numerous appointments and possibly extended hospital stays, families may struggle to find time for everyday tasks like grocery shopping. Offer to help with meals, either at home for their other children or by bringing food to the hospital. Encourage others to join in by organizing a meal train.

Support the siblings

If there are other children in the family, offer to take care of them or arrange activities to give them additional attention and support. This allows parents to focus on their sick child, while knowing their other children are also receiving care.

Choose your words carefully

Sometimes when we do not know what to say, we inadvertently say something hurtful. Avoid saying things that might minimize the seriousness of a cancer diagnosis, such as "Everything happens for a reason," or offering unsolicited medical advice. Instead, opt for empathetic statements like:

  • “I don’t know what to say. I wish that I could make all this go away. I’m here to listen and help in any way I can.”
  • “I’m sorry your sweet son/daughter has to go through this. I’m here if you need me for anything.”
  • “I am so sorry to hear of your son/daughter’s diagnosis. I will be thinking of you all often during this difficult time.”

About Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada

A childhood cancer diagnosis can flip a family's world upside down, making everyday life uncertain, overwhelming and exhausting. Supporting a loved one whose child has been diagnosed with cancer can be emotionally challenging, but your presence and assistance can significantly impact the family's experience while battling this terrible disease.

For 45 years, Candlelighters has been a beacon of light for families in Southern Nevada, serving approximately 400 families and 1,200 children, both siblings and diagnosed children, each year. In the last decade alone, it has provided nearly $13 million in financial assistance, emotional support and quality of life programs and services.