What To Do When a Loved One is Diagnosed with Cancer

As a first year medical student, one of my worst fears came true. My mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was terrifying to think of potentially losing her, and my mind was racing with all of the terrible side effects that the chemotherapy, surgery and radiation might cause her. 

Fortunately, she made it through the treatment with flying colors, and is still here today living her best life. It’s because of her diagnosis that I selected the field of radiation oncology for my career. 

One thing I remember from that time was having the strong urge to do something. What could I do? How could I help? Was there something I could do that would actually make a difference?

The number one thing I would recommend doing for your loved one who has received a cancer diagnosis is to introduce them to the concept of mindfulness during their treatment and recovery.

We know that the mind can help heal the body, so by spreading this knowledge you can actually improve your loved one’s experience of their treatment, and their outcome!

Recently, I was able to discuss with my mom her approach during treatment. She has a strong faith, and there was a lot of prayer! Also, I’d like to share with you today her mindfulness technique that she used when receiving radiation treatments. You can pass this along to your loved one.

Mindfulness exercise for radiation treatment:

On the treatment table, close your eyes and relax, focusing on slow deep breathing, extending the exhalation longer than the inhalation. You may choose to say a prayer asking for God’s healing power, and asking for wisdom and skill to be with the techs and medical team. Once the treatment begins, visualize a shining ray attacking the cancer cells (and only the cancer cells) specifically sparing any normal cells nearby. Zap, zap, zap…each cancer cell or group of cells wherever they are hiding are destroyed by the ray. Healthy cells are left unharmed. Imagine your own immune cells being recruited in and gearing up to join the ray in the fight against the cancer cells. All the while, remain present with your breath.

You may choose to share the exercise with a loved one who is heading into radiation therapy. You may also consider providing a gift for your loved one, such as a personalized meditation pack to be used during their treatments or some private coaching sessions with me. Head to my website for more information: