Sunday, August 4, 2019

Helping Someone Through Cancer Treatment

If someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer, there are a lot of things you can do to be a good friend to them.  (And lots of things that do not help at all, but those can be covered in another post.)

  • Be supportive.  Don't offer advice - cures, things you heard someone else did that helped, ways to improve their lifestyle to improve their chances.  All this does is imply that they did something wrong, and that's why they got cancer.  Or that they haven't done their research, or that their doctor has no idea what they're talking about.  Be supportive - tell them that you're there for them any time they may need you.  Ask if they'd like you to come along on appointments to be another ear, or to take notes so that they don't have to worry about that.
  • Offer to come along when they have chemo.  I preferred to put in earbuds and watch something on my Kindle Fire during chemo, but I still wanted someone there with me.  (If for nothing else, I needed someone else to drive.) When Jamie couldn't be there, I had a friend who immediately volunteered to take the time off of work to come along.  And she said that she could talk, or bring along something to do so that I could ignore her if I'd prefer.  It meant a lot to know I'd have company, but that I wouldn't feel like I had to entertain or socialize.  Offering to keep them company is also a way to support the caregiver (my husband, in my case), who needs support more than they realize.
  • Send cards/gifts/texts regularly.  I had friends and family that texted me on a regular basis, especially if they knew I had chemo or an appointment.  And texts are much, much better than calls when your energy is low or you're feeling terrible.  Receiving cards or small (or large!) gifts in the mail meant so much to me, also.  Anything that brought my spirits up when I was feeling low was a big help.  During treatment, every day can feel endless/hopeless/terrible, so those bright spots made me feel like things would be better someday.  Gift ideas are listed at the bottom!
  • Offer to visit.  And when you offer, give a specific date and time, and then text again right before coming in case he/she isn't up for the visit after all.  (And don't visit if you or anyone in your house is at all sick!)  Cancer is very isolating.  You're suddenly immersed in a whole new world that you never wanted to know anything about, and removed from your regular old life.  Your good friends will stick by you, but more of your friends, you discover, were really acquaintances and they fall away.  When you do go visit, don't be afraid to ask how things are going, and then share what's happening in your own life.  I didn't want visits to be all about me and cancer.  I wanted to know what was going on with my friends, and didn't want them apologizing for telling me about the lows in their lives.
  • Support the caregiver.  My husband took time off of work, took care of the kids, did all of the cooking/cleaning/shopping/ all of the driving, went to just about every appointment, and had to watch me go through chemo, a double mastectomy, and radiation.  Anything you can do to support the caregiver - gifts, cards, offering to take his/her place at appointments, sending over a cleaning service, offering to bring dinner/breakfast/lunch, taking the kids for an afternoon, or coming to visit the patient so the caregiver can simply get away for some along time - anything is helpful.  Gifts for the kids - movie gift cards, or things that could brighten their day in any way, made my treatment easier, as well.

Gifts ideas for someone going through treatment:

  • Unscented, creamy lotion for dry skin (a major problem during treatment)*
  • A luxurious skin cream (face) for dry chemo skin*
  • A good lip balm (not scented/flavored)*
  • A cozy, soft cardigan or hoodie
  • A good neck pillow for use during chemo or at home after surgery
  • Gift cards to Amazon, or other places for online shopping
  • Pretty scarves or soft beanies (or gift cards to somewhere online to buy them)
  • Soft, cute button-up shirts or pjs
  • A Sephora or Ulta gift card (I had to replace my makeup with natural brands)
  • A big, cute cup with a handle and straw (to make drinking lots of water easier)
  • A cute tote bag to take their stuff to/from treatment
  • A thin, soft robe for use during radiation so they don't have to wear a hospital gown
  • Things to do during chemo - books if they like to read, gift cards for streaming services if they prefer to watch movies/shows
  • A gift card for a mani/pedi for when they're able to get out again

*For hormone-positive breast cancers, products have to be paraben-free. For most (if not all) cancers, patients are encouraged to switch to more natural products. I love using items from Josie Maran, Fresh, Acure, and Burt's Bees.  There are many great natural brands out there!

Most importantly,

  • PRAY.  God can do amazing things.  Let them know you're praying for them, and tell them specifically what you're praying for.

The "Thank you!" picture I sent to my cousin when I received a gift card from her in the mail.  It was such a surprise, and such a bright spot in an otherwise terrible day!  Knowing she was thinking of me warmed my heart,
 and the distraction of online shopping helped, too.

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