Caring For A Spouse Diagnosed with Cancer

At CanCare we know that Cancer is a family disease.  As the husband or wife of someone living with cancer, your life looks different now.  We know that the spouses of someone with cancer also need support. At CanCare we provide support to the cancer patient’s family as well as the cancer patient.  Husbands, wives, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, grandchildren are also often impacted when someone in the family hears those dreaded words, “You have cancer”.

Cancer support for family members is especially important because often caregiver spouses are reluctant to share their feelings with the survivor spouse for fear of causing an upset or burdening their loved one.  When connected with a CanCare volunteer caregiver who has walked the path of caring for a family member, caregivers can openly discuss their experience of the cancer journey and share their feelings.

You may not know how to support a family member who is diagnosed with cancer.   That’s understandable. You’ve probably not done this before.  It’s new territory.  Here are some suggestions about how you can be helpful.

Spouse with Cancer

Be Positive.

At this time in history, there is so much Hope for those with cancer. Offer your spouse with cancer the reassurance of a hug. Call your husband or wife with cancer a survivor — not a patient — not a victim. At CanCare we say that anyone who hears.” you’ve got cancer” is a survivor.  A cancer diagnosis is a crisis, but do not assume your husband or wife will die of cancer. After treatment, more than 55% of cancer survivors live out their normal lifetime cancer-free.


Your spouse with cancer needs to talk about what has happened. You will receive clues about how he/she wants to be treated. Your loved one needs a place to express honest feelings without judgment. It is helpful to stay in touch. Find ways to show you really care.

Remember cancer affects the whole family.

The whole family needs attention. Show kindness and respect to one another, each person responds in their own way.

Love and support are needed.

Cancer survivors do not need “pity”. Pity does not help morale. Encouragement gives the confidence to face the realities of cancer. Remember your survivor family member is likely to be lonely and afraid. Write a note, give a book or a video for a laugh. Make a favorite dish. Show love by celebrating life.

Pray for your husband or wife with cancer.

Channels for healing are opened by your prayers. Remember God wants all of us to be healthy, whole, happy people. God’s presence brings peace.

Express honest feelingstears are O.K.

Though there can be a temptation to “protect” your loved one by hiding your feelings, realize that your family member may also need to cry with you. When you share feelings, even though they may be hard, it prevents the loneliness of dealing with difficult feelings on your own.

Use the word cancer.

It is only a word for the disease, not a sentence. It makes the survivor feel bad if you always avoid the word and refer to cancer as “your problem”. Avoid making decisions for your friend. Help the survivor be a part of decision-making and be included in as many “usual” events as possible.

Offer specific help.

Do not say, “call me any time” if you don’t mean it. Think about what you can offer and say what you are willing to do — “I can drive you anywhere, or do any errand for you on Tuesdays.” “I’ll make the dinner the next two Monday nights.”

Be sensitive to visitors.

Your spouse may be tired from treatment.  Try to encourage friends to come for short, upbeat visits or make positive phone calls. Your husband or wife needs success stories, diversion, Hope, friendship and you may need a respite from care.  Encouraging friends, coworkers, other family member contact shows love and consideration. Ask friends to call before they visit.  It is likely that your family member may have good days and bad days so you need to be flexible with visitors.

Reach out for help.

Call CanCare at (713) 461-0028 or toll-free at 888-461-0028. Every person with cancer and every family member caring for them deserves to have a friend who has “been there”. Trained CanCare Volunteers can help!

Sign Up To Receive One-On-One Support


Sign up for emails from CanCare

Call for Support
Volunteer Portal