How To Help When A Loved One Has Cancer

Cancer and Its Life-Changing Effects

By Scott Sanders

Cancer is more than a disease. It affects a person socially, economically and mentally. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. People of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, genders and creeds are vulnerable to this threat. When someone you love faces a cancer diagnoses, it elicits a lot of complicated feelings — anger, fear and grief are just the tip of the iceberg. However, the most prevalent thing you feel is a desire to help your loved one during this difficult time. But how do you truly help someone with cancer?

If you want to truly help a person going through cancer treatment, it is useful to understand the various problems the diagnosis presents.

  • Cancer has many physical symptomsthat can make day-to-day life painful. Anemia, fatigue, chronic pain, swelling, incontinence and persistent coughing are all common symptoms for various types of cancer. Once in treatment, the cancer patient has to deal with the various side effects that come with that, as well.
  • Cancer treatment is far from cheap. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, newly approved cancer drugs costan average of $10,000 a month with some therapies costing as much as $30,000 a month. That is an incredible financial burden for most Americans, especially if their health insurance is sub-par or non-existent.
  • Cancer patients often suffer mental health issuesincluding depression, anxiety and sleep problems. These complications make it extremely difficult to complete even the most basic activities like cleaning, cooking, and other household chores.

Listening: The Best Way To Help

The best way to help a loved one with cancer is to simply listen to them. Acknowledge what they are going through and always act in a friendly, empathetic and appropriate way. When talking with your friend or family member, you don’t have to fill up your time with chatter — it’s OK to be silent when you don’t know what to say. Be an empathetic and active listener and avoid making judgments, especially if they are simply venting. If you say something wrong, apologize and assure them you want to support them during this time. For encouragement, suggest doing simple activities you know they enjoy. This can help them restore a sense of control in their lives.

Helping Around the House

Between juggling treatment and the rest of their lives and the debilitating symptoms of cancer, it is common for people to fall behind when it comes to home care. A practical way to help a person with cancer is lending a hand around the house. Taking over for cleaning, cooking, or childcare duties from time to time can give your loved one a much needed break in their hectic schedule. If you aren’t much of the domestic type, you can hire help for just about anything these days from a handymanwho completes household repairs on the weekends to a dog walkeror pet sitterwho makes sure Fido is taken care of when your loved one doesn’t have the energy.

Help Raise Funds

The expensive costs of cancer health care can do a lot of damage to a person’s finances. Fundraisingfor your loved one can ensure they make it through their treatment without having to face bankruptcyin the end. Establishing a nonprofit group allows you to legally request funds from the general public and instills trust in donors. The return on investment of a nonprofit group for cancer fundraising can be amazing. Once the nonprofit is established, a fundraising event gets the community involved and drums up donations. Campaign for local businesses to contribute to the fundraiser and promote your event using both local media and social networking.



Cancer affects people physically, financially, mentally and emotionally. The best way to help is listening. Be a nonjudgmental presence that is there to support your loved one. Lending a hand around the house is another great way to help. From cooking dinner to hiring a handyman, you can help take some of the weight off your loved one’s shoulders. The financial burden of cancer leaves some people facing bankruptcy after treatment. Creating a nonprofit group and organizing an event that raises funds for your loved one can keep them in the clear financially so they don’t have to worry about such an encumbrance while treating this disease.

Seeing Blindness

Seeing Blindness

Seeing Blindness


Seeing Blindness

new before + after

Facing Chemo – Before & After


new before + after

Facing Chemo – Before & After



Facing Chemo in Switzerland this summer

A selection of images from the Facing Chemo Before & After exhibit will be on display at a gallery in Switzerland this summer as part of a larger exhibit on the human condition.  WER BIN ICH?  WHO AM I?


Was kann ich wissen, was soll ich tun, was darf ich hoffen?

What can I know what should I do, what I should hope?

Trying to understand our Identity has preoccupied mankind since time immemorial. Each and every one of us grapples with the issue throughout our lifetime. Nevertheless, none of us can clearly or definitively answer the question: What makes us the person we are today? What impact does our environment have on our sense of self and what is predetermined by our genetic makeup? The Exhibition invites you to delve into the complexity of your Identity, to engage with your own unique personality, to question its assumptions and educate it further. Thoughts and insights of the curators are illustrated through artworks, new media and exhibits from every day life and assist the visitor to playfully explore who they are, what motivates them and what they still may want to become.

Vögele Kultur Zentrum
Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin
Gwattstrasse 14
CH – 8808 Pfäffikon SZ

For more information [in German]

Art and healing at Brown University

Last month, images from Facing Light’s project, Facing Chemo Before & After, hung at a symposium put on at Brown University focused on using art in the healing process.  The Symposium, hosted by Artists and Scientists as Partners, was entitled Designing the Next Steps – Art, Health & Design.  The work that they do centers around advocating for persons with Parkinson’s Disease and Autism Spectrum Disorders and using dance as a healing tool.

Facing Chemo - a photographic project

Facing Chemo – Before & After

“Brown’s initiative (in the intersection of art and science) will send a message to the arts and science communities throughout academic and research institutions and lend credibility to a burgeoning field of study. It will also add to Brown’s reputation for innovative and collaborative research.  With new information and research supporting the benefits of the arts on people with Parkinson’s and Autism, doctors, educators, and artists will have new approaches to offer. Possible outcomes could be reduced need for medications and medical care. At the least, there will be evidence that there are effective options to current approaches.” [Brown-ASaP site]

Given the synergy with ASaP and Facing Light’s work, we were thrilled to be invited to collaborate with the event.


Facing Chemo - Before & After

Facing Chemo – Before & After

Facing Chemo Before & After was recognized by the 2015 International Photo Awards for their Social Cause division

We are honored to have been recognized by the 2015 International Photography Awards for Social Cause!


[Robert Houser Photography]

News & Press Page Added to the Website

New pages were added to our Facing Light website.  Information regarding news and upcoming press can be found in the ‘about’ drop-down menu.  Check it out!

2016 plans

We are looking forward to an exciting 2016 for Facing Light. Our goal is lots and lots of shooting and we’re off to a great start — two Facing Chemo photoshoots already in January. Please send us any suggestions for the projects we are working on:
Facing Chemo
Facing Schizophrenia / Mental Illness
Facing MS
Facing Aging
Facing Blindness

I’m excited to see the woman who inspired and got me started on all this next month here in the Bay Area.
Facing Chemo photographs by Robert Houser and the Facing Light Foundation