Helping Your Family Cope With the Stress of a Cancer Diagnosis

When you are diagnosed with cancer, it is like an earthquake. Not only do you have to deal with this news, but you need to tell your family. Whom should you tell first, how to tell them, when, and what to say are all unfamiliar tasks. Not only do you need to come to terms with cancer, but now you are responsible for helping your family cope with the stress of a cancer diagnosis.

Cancer patient with her child.

Spouses And Partners

Your spouse or partner is likely the one person in the family who will be affected the most. A mutual support system is best. You both will feel frightened, anxious, angry, sad, and bewildered alternately. When one is feeling down the other should supply the lift.

Depending on how well you both approach a cancer diagnosis can greatly affect not only your relationship, but also the prognosis. Some partners find they get even closer going through a stressful situation, while others allow it to create even more strain.

Whether it is emotional support or just taking over everyday tasks like grocery shopping, this give and take will set the standard for the road ahead. Allow your partner to help you with as much as they can handle and be sure to always show your appreciation.


As soon as you can, explain what is happening to your children. You’re not going to give them every detail, but they need to feel included and not left out. You don’t want them to think you are keeping secrets from them.

Explain how they may need to take on more chores around the house. This will actually make them feel like they are helping and a valuable part of the family. Things like dog walking, helping with meals, and other simple tasks can be part of their new duties. Ask them what they would like to do.

Explain what you still can do even during your treatment and try to maintain your normal routine as much as possible. This will provide your children with a sense of security. They may be frightened of the unknown, but if they see you showing normality where you can, it will help them relax.

Ask For Help

Don’t ignore friends and relatives. They will want to help, so give them some ideas of how they can. Be specific and ask for help with:

  • Driving you to doctor appointment when needed and taking notes
  • Driving children to after-school activities or carpool
  • Keeping up with laundry
  • Make a list and let them choose what works for them
  • Going to the grocery store

There is always support for YOU should you have emotional or psychological issues as you move through your cancer treatments. Talk with your care team.

Contact Southwest Diagnostic Center For Molecular Imaging at (214) 345-8300 if you need help coping with your cancer diagnosis.