It can be hard to ask for help if you have kidney cancer, but there are times it may be necessary. Educating others about your condition and making a list of ways they can help are some of the ways to find the support you need.

Receiving a kidney cancer diagnosis and starting treatment often means your life will change, at least for a little while. It can put added pressure on you and your family, as you may be unable to do everything you’re used to. Loved ones may have to take over and give additional time to new tasks related to your treatment.

As you sort out your feelings after a diagnosis, you may want to turn your mind to asking others for support. Often this means being ready with a list of tasks when people offer assistance. But it can also mean reaching out when you need an errand done or just want some company.

It’s not always easy to admit you need help or to ask for it. Here are some ideas about how to reach out for support.

Your friends and family may want to help. But they may also not know much about kidney cancer. They may perceive your needs to be different than what they actually are based on their experiences with other types of cancer.

Educating yourself — and others — about kidney cancer can help you determine how the condition and its treatment may affect you and how others can best support you.

The National Kidney Foundation has a comprehensive overview of kidney cancer. The Kidney Cancer Association has a Just Diagnosed tool kit. You can use these two resources to develop information to give to others.

The essential information comes from you and covers your individual needs. You can focus on the particular treatments you expect to receive and how they may affect your daily life. This gives people a better picture of how to help.

Instead of leaving it to others to guess what they can do to help you, you can make a list of tasks others can do. It may help to think about how your life might change during treatment.

For example, recovering from kidney cancer surgery, such as a nephrectomy, may take days or weeks. You may be unable to do housework, go grocery shopping, or perform other errands requiring strenuous physical activity.

If you’re taking an adjuvant therapy after surgery or having immunotherapy or targeted therapy, you may experience side effects. If you have flu-like symptoms, fatigue, or nausea, it may be better for you to rest during treatment than try to take care of too many household tasks.

Some items that you can place on a task list include:

  • cleaning, laundry, and maintenance and repairs at home
  • driving you to and from medical appointments
  • shopping at the grocery store and pharmacy
  • walking dogs
  • caregiving of children and pets
  • driving family members to school and activities
  • attending medical appointments with you for support and company
  • preparing meals
  • sending updates about how you’re doing to friends and family

Cancer can affect your whole family, so you may want to ask those who care for you what support they need. Older children, spouses, and close friends may have to work together as roles and responsibilities change during your treatment.

It may be great to accept help when people offer it, but it’s also OK to suggest other ways people can support you. Sometimes people all show up for you in the same way, giving you an overabundance of support in one aspect but not enough in others.

If you have more than enough food, you might want to ask a trusted friend who offers to make a meal to take out the dogs instead or drive you to medical appointments. Try to feel comfortable saying you need support in areas other than those offered.

When thinking about which friends and family members to ask for help, consider their strengths. Some people may be better at organizing and coordinating medical appointments, while others may feel more comfortable running errands or doing household chores. You may want to consider asking different people for help based on their strengths rather than asking the same person for help in several areas.

People may not think of giving you company, but it could be an important way to provide support. Since it’s important for people with kidney cancer to maintain some physical activity during and after treatment, you may want company on walks and similar excursions.

If you have to take time off work or have a lot of downtime during treatment, you may want someone to visit. It’s fine to ask people to call ahead or schedule their time with you. If you’re not feeling well, it’s also OK to cancel.

People have different experiences with cancer. Sometimes, people who care very deeply can’t help you with tasks or errands, or they say no when you ask.

There are many reasons people say no. A person may have lived through the cancer treatment of a loved one, so helping you may be emotionally difficult. They may be busy with many responsibilities of their own or have worries and concerns you may not be aware of.

If you want to focus on your own support, you can try to find others who can help. You can make a personal decision about how to manage the relationship with the person who turned you down.

Try not to let the “no” from one person stop you from reaching out to others. You may even be surprised — some people who may not have been a strong support to you before may step up and provide more help than you expect.

Joining an online or in-person support group can lead to ideas of how to ask those in your life to give you a helping hand. Support groups can also help ease the emotional burden of living with kidney cancer. You can ask your healthcare team for connections in your area or look for internet-based options like those sponsored by the Kidney Cancer Association.

Other online resources you may want to consider can include:

  • Caring Bridge, a free online platform that allows you to share updates about your health journey with friends and family. It also offers a scheduling tool to coordinate caregiving tasks.
  • Lotsa Helping Hands allows you to create a community and use a care calendar to organize meal deliveries, coordinate rides to medical appointments, and assign others ways to help.

Support from others can be a critical part of your kidney cancer treatment. Consider task lists and reaching out to loved ones to get help. Kidney cancer support networks and groups can also give you a place to share experiences and ideas.