On November 25, 2009, the day before Thanksgiving I began my fight with Cancer. It seems like a lifetime ago when I was told that the mass that was removed from my breast was cancer. I was 41 years old and I had just gotten the hang of living life in my 40’s. It was shocking to say the least. I was fortunate that it was non-invasive and I required minimal treatment. But I was flabbergasted ten-months later when my Mom was diagnosed with invasive Breast Cancer at the age of 68.
I was determined that my Mom wouldn’t have to deal with the same uneasiness from friends that I had dealt with. It is something about telling friends and family that you have cancer that make everyone uncomfortable. There are long pauses, followed by looks that remind you of when your puppy died when you were a child. There are friends that you normally chat with for hours that are at a loss of words. There are long days filled with medical terms and lots of blah, blah, blah spoken by doctors, radiologists, oncologists, technologists, nurses, etc. that you won’t remember. But I remembered this experience all too well, like it was yesterday and I decided to provide the support that I was given and to also be the support that I WAS NOT GIVEN to my Mom.
Here is my list of 15 ways to help a friend or loved one with cancer and my special way to say I love you and I am thinking about you Susan @whymommy:
- Give them lots of gentle HUGS and LOVE! Needless to say, this is a scary time for everyone. Hugs and extra expressions of love go a long way.
- Listen as your friend shares the news and be available to listen to them. Sometimes they need to just talk about things other than cancer and other times they might just need to vent. Don’t make them feel like they have to make you feel comfortable. Remember that they are sick and they shouldn’t really have to but on a good face for you. They might be losing hair or weight and feel uncomfortable keep the focus on them getting well, not how they look.
- Offer to take them to their initial appointments and take notes for them. Doctor’s speak so quickly and can be so matter of fact. Cancer patients can be hyperviligant or completely overwhelmed by all of the information that they are given. It’s good to have a note taker – someone who writes everything. Spouses can be overwhelmed too.
- Plan a Let’s Kick Cancers Butt Gathering. Include her whole support team. Ask what she needs. Sign up to cook meals. Sign up to take care of pets (walking and bathing them).
- Create a Cancer Bag. Fill it with: gloves, a decorated binder, a plastic bag full of writing pens, a micro tape-recorder to record their thoughts or what doctor’s tell them, a couple of her favorite magazines, and a business card holder (a neat place for all of the cards they will get: the oncologist, nurse, interns, patient care representatives, financial representatives, support group leaders, etc.)
- Offer to take their children out for a fun activity. Children need to have fun! Mom & Dad and even Grandparents are focused on fighting cancer. Frankly, they are often just worn out. Include your friends children in an activity with your family. Take them to the mall for a treat or a movie to to get them away from the house. Take them to one of their soccer, baseball or basketball games when Mom can’t be there. Cheer them on, reassure them that they are loved and talk to them about their concerns.
- Prepare meals for them and their family. ASK — what are their favorites. Prepare the items in disposable pans or come over and serve it to them and wash the dishes and clean the kitchen for them after they are done. It’s just one more thing that they don’t have to worry about during this time.
- Help keep business affairs in order. Children’s Field Trip Notices, recurring bills, medical receipts and paperwork.
- Go with them to their Chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Some people go as little as 3x’s a week to 7x’s a week. Offer to take them and sit with them if you can. They would love the company and it will take their mind off of their treatment for a little while.
- Chip in with some friends and pay to have their house cleaned professionally. Lurking germs can wreck havoc on a compromised immune system. Sometimes the simplest things get overlooked when everyone is focused on a cancer patients recovery.
- Put together a Memory Book. Include pictures and mementos of their spouses, children, friends, activities, places she loves. This can be assembled by a professional organization like http://www.bellflowerbooks.com (@bellflowerbooks), who is so graciously creating books for the JustBeEnough Campaign (@JustBeEnough) visit http://www.justbeenough.com, or at My Publisher visit http://www.mypublisher.com
- Plan a Ladies Night. Rent her favorite movies, bring out the healthy snacks, nail polish, and photographs, old music and have a BLAST!.
- Offer to dictate or help write letters to her family and friends. You might just be there to support her but she will appreciate it!
- Plan a Cancer Walk or Fundraiser specifically for your friend. Did you know that 1/3 of people who file for bancruptcy because of uncovered medical cost for life threatening illnesses? You will be amazed at how many fundraisers and donations go to help research or a national organization but never reach your local area. See the ideas below:
- Walk-a-thon ask people to sponsor you per lap or a flat donation.
- A Prayer Breakfast at Church ask people to donate $10 per person to benefit the family directly for expenses not covered by their insurance.
- Plan a gathering at a local restaurant. Ask the restaurant to give 15% of the nights receipts to the family. Create coupons and contact EVERYONE you can think of and tell them to eat in or order to go. Email coupons to your co-workers, church members, friends and ask them to forward the email.
15. Host a VICTORY PARTY! Include anyone and everyone! Make it a potluck and CELEBRATE KICKING CANCER’S BUTT!