You have no words. Or you’re worried you’ll say the wrong thing. You might say a prayer for her recovery or put healing vibes into the universe for health. How else can you help someone who has cancer?
Many people have asked me what they can do for someone going through treatment for breast cancer. I’ve put together my best ideas and what helped my family during my treatment.
How to Help a Friend with Cancer
Child care. Does she/he have small children that require babysitting? Knowing that you’re children are well taken care of in your absence is worth its weight in gold. When I was going through radiation treatment, I had to be at the hospital daily for a matter of twenty minutes. Get undressed, get zapped, get dressed and go home. But, I couldn’t take my one year old with me. She couldn’t be in the treatment room and I obviously couldn’t leave her alone in the waiting room. Offer up your free babysitting services!
Meals. I wasn’t so much concerned with being fed but I worried about my husband and daughter. There are several option to ensure your friend and their family are well taken care of.
1. Drop off prepared meals that can be frozen, heated and served later.
The gift of water. It is really important to stay hydrated during chemotherapy. I drank a lot of Gatorade and bottled water mixed with Emergen-C. A care package outfitted with a reusable bottle and a box of Emergen-C is a great gift idea. Add a few magazines or a book and you’re golden. TIP: Chemo can wreck a person’s tastebuds and sometimes certain brands of water taste better than others. If you’re adding bottles of water to your care package, you might consider asking if your friend has any aversions to certain brands.
Housekeeping. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can seriously wipe a person our physically. Walking up and down the stairs in my home was exhausting somedays. Reduce their heavy lifting by vacuuming their house, sorting, shifting and folding laundry, walk the family dog, pull out the trash cans, mow the lawn, or gather the mail. Everyday chores can become quite overwhelming – don’t let them.
The written word. A simple, well-written card or not is always welcomed. What do you say? Tell them they are strong, that they are fighters, encourage them to believe in their treatment and their doctors or their faith, remind them of their support system and the love of others, cheer them on as they get closer to finishing treatment. Words are powerful. Tell them you are simply thinking of them.
Lower your expectations. Try not be offended if your friend doesn’t make the effort she once used to. Emails and phone calls may go unanswered for days at a time or she might not be especially interested in your life. She will come back around, I promise.
Offer to go to their chemo sessions with them. I didn’t always engage in conversation during treatment but it was always great to know I had someone there by my side. Especially the first time because it was the scariest. And definitely the last because it should be a celebration!
Encourage them to find a support group of patients also being treated for the same cancer. There are so many online support groups and many hospitals offer group services. It helps immensely to discuss thoughts, feelings, and experiences with someone also going through the same thing. Twitter is another fantastic source for finding current patients and survivors.
A simple phone call, voicemail, or email just letting them know you are thinking of them. A potted plant, some flowers, or a homemade card left on their porch step is always a sweet surprise too.
Cancer and its treatment can be very isolating. A card, a phone call, a meal, a care package are all things that will make someone feel like they aren’t so alone.