Yes, cancer is happening to your loved one --but it's also happening to you.

The demands of caring for an ill family member or friend are so overwhelming that they can physically impact you, too. When you give the majority of your life energy to another, you will inevitably feel some frustration and sadness because you are prioritizing the needs of another over your own. These feelings contribute to your brain releasing chemicals that inhibit or suppress the working of the immune system.

In fact, many of my patients are diagnosed with cancer after they have sacrificed the meeting of their own needs (often for many months to several years) in order to serve as a caregiver for a loved one. So please, make sure that you leave time for self-healing, whether that happens through meditation, sitting quietly and breathing, taking a walk, or reading an uplifting book.

That said, you are giving your loved one a great gift by caring from the heart. Keep in mind that healing occurs when there is the re-establishment of inner harmony, balance, and peace, and that you have the power to help your loved one create an inner sense of well-being. And not only does your love and friendship help the patient; it touches and heals every cell of your own being too.

HELPFUL TIPS FOR CAREGIVERS AND OTHERS WHO LOVE A CANCER PATIENT:

  • Take a few minutes for self-healing. This is especially important before you visit a loved one who is ill or dying. Sit quietly for five to fifteen minutes and simply breathe in and out to connect with your own inner healer. Ask to be filled with peace, patience, and great love. Then you will be ready to provide what is most needed: unconditional acceptance and love.

  • Choose to forgive. Surrender any grudges, anger, or resentment that you may be harboring toward your loved one. These feelings primarily harm you. Laying them down will open the doors to true healing for you and the patient. Click here for an exercise to help you forgive yourself and then forgive others.

  • Steer the talk away from cancer. Your loved one doesn’t want his or her entire existence to revolve around cancer. Ask and talk about other family members and everyday events, such as kids’ activities, church involvement, vacations, hobbies and interests, and even favorite books and TV shows! This will bring a welcome and much-needed sense of normalcy to a household that is shadowed by illness.

  • Offer a pair of helping hands. If you are not the primary caregiver, offer to take on some of his or her burdens, such as driving children to activities, buying food at the market, making dinner, etc. By giving the caregiver a much-needed break, you will be promoting healing for him or her and the patient.

  • Call on your Higher Power. Pray for your loved one daily, and get him or her on as many prayer lists as possible. Specifically, pray that he or she be given what he or she needs to sustain, comfort, and help in the healing process. Prayer works. I have seen the truth of this again and again.

  • Soothe the patient’s spirit with beautiful memories. If your loved one is facing death, one of the best ways to bring meaning and healing to him or her is to gather beloved stories and photographs of times shared with family and friends over a lifetime. These memories can lend joy and peace to what might otherwise be a negative, difficult time.

  • Give the gift of hope. Drop “seeds” on the plate of your loved one or a caregiver by sharing your views about the journey of the soul after death. Do this to inspire, inform, and comfort those you love and to diminish their fears, anxieties, and worries about what happens after the death of the body.

I find that books that contain stories about near-death experiences–my own books as well as others by authors like Melvin Morse, MD; Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD; Betty Eadie; Raymond Moody, MD, PhD; Larry Dossey, MD–can be immensely helpful. (Audio recordings may be even better for patients and caregivers who are too sick and/or stressed to focus on the printed page.)