So you’ve found out someone you know has cancer, and you want to help. But what can you do?
When we first got my diagnosis, so many people reached out to help us. We were overwhelmed by kindness and good thoughts. Below are the things I’ve found most helpful (and I’m sure I’ve left some things out). So if you’re unsure of how to support someone with cancer, try a few of these:
1. Get a team together: If there is a small group of friends and/or family that takes up helping your friend, it’s a huge weight off their shoulders. They can coordinate volunteers, field questions, or just be a point of contact for the stressful times. I call my gals my “Sister Wives”. They have taken a load of off not only me, but my husband as well. They are always there in the background ready to help, or just be a should to cry on. I don’t know how we would have made it this far without them.
2. Offer to take notes during appointments: Sometimes appointments are emotionally charged, and it can be hard to remember things. I’ve referred back to the notes, or asked the person that came with me what they remembered. It’s often different from what I remembered!
3. Bring heat and eat meals: All prepped, preferably in a pan, or easily consumed after a quick trip to the microwave or oven. Remember to include directions if needed.
4. Gift cards to favorite take-out restaurants: If you’re not a cook, that’s ok, you can still help with meals. Find out their favorite restaurants that have take-out, and get a gift card. These are great for times when the family is exhausted, and cooking seems like one.more.thing.
5. A group Facebook page or online group site: This makes it easy to coordinate volunteers and get out updates. Better yet if you manage it so they don’t have to. Try a site like LotsaHelpingHands.com
6. Visiting or an outing to just shoot the breeze: Cancer is a lonely venture, and you’re in your head a lot. Sometimes it’s nice to just talk or go to coffee like we used to. Offer to meet your friend at home, or take them out.
7. Transportation to or from appointments: This gives their spouse a break, and a helping hand at the same time. There can be lots of trips to and from the doctor, treatments or even the pharmacy. Offer to run the errand for them, or pick them up and go together.
8.Housecleaning: I cannot tell you how much I adore our housekeeper. Offer to help scrub the toilet yourself, or hire someone to come and clean their house for them. It will be one less thing they have to worry about.
9. Keep them company (if they want it): Be their “chemo buddy” during treatments, which can last hours. Offer to come and watch trashy TV on their resting days.
10. Listen, or be a sounding board: Sometimes you just need someone to listen to the “dark” stuff. Cancer is stressful, and worrisome. Sometimes a shoulder to cry on, or someone to just talk thru things is the best medicine.
11. Use what you do naturally & offer specific help: Are you good at organizing, cooking, art, music, cleaning, or something else? Offer to do something specific for your friend that makes the most of what you do best. They will appreciate it so much, and it will avoid the too open (albeit best of intentions) question of “How can I help?”
Some other helpful articles:
Supporting Your Spouse Living with Cancer, Lotsa Helping Hands: A cancer diagnosis hits the spouse or partner just as hard.
Things to do during chemo treatments, Lotsa Helping Hands: Some great ideas on what to do during the long hours of chemo
Supporting a friend who has cancer, Cancer.net: Especially helpful is the section on what to say (or not say).
10 Ways To Help A Friend With Cancer, Huffington Post: My favorite is #7.