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Q. My brother is 70 and has been diagnosed with metastatic cancer. He has had chemotherapy and radium 223 treatments. Both have had harsh side effects (nausea, vomiting, weight loss, constipation, skin changes, weakness, sadness and depression). How do I as his caregiver support him? It's also not a good fit with his oncologist.


First, I would like to normalize your experience and how challenging navigating a loved one’s cancer diagnosis can be. Watching the physical changes that accompany cancer treatment can bring up many mixed emotions including feelings of helplessness. It can be hard to sit with the feeling of not being able to “do” anything to take his pain away. However, one thing that may be helpful is saying, “I am here for you. How can I help?” This can provide relief for him. Also, perhaps offering some practical ways to help. I am not sure if you live nearby, but perhaps saying, “I can walk your dog 1x a week” or “I will send you food on Mondays.” People frequently appreciate when we do something for them without asking what needs to be done. However, if you are not sure how you can help, it is ok, and encouraged, to say: “What could I do to help alleviate some of your stressors?”

Another helpful tip is using “I feel” statements. Sharing “I feel” statements can help in explaining what you are going through to your brother. You can share, “I feel I don’t know how to help you. Please tell me what I can do.” This can provide a good starting point for further conversations between you and your loved ones.

Trust and rapport are very important when thinking about ones relationship with the treatment team. If you are feeling it is not a good fit, I would recommend discussing with your brother receiving a second opinion. One option is to look into the insurance company and see what other hospitals/physicians are in his network. Another thing you can do is to contact an academic medical institution or a National Cancer Institute-designated facility.

Having a social worker or therapist to help you process everything can also be helpful. If you choose to look for additional support, feel free to look at the below link or call CancerCare’s Hopeline at 800-813-4673 and an oncology social worker can assist you further.

Psychology Today is a great resource for one on one counseling and you can search by zip code, insurance etc.

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