I wrote this in honor of my 30th year being cancer free. In April of 1984 I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Luckily it turned out alright and here I am 30 years later to tell you that cancer is not an automatic death sentence. I have since gone through cancer diagnoses and treatments of my husband, my mother, my brother and my father-in-law. additionally, my mother-in-law and my aunt are also both cancer survivors.
Last post I called the 10 Things Never to Say or Do to a Cancer Patient. This time I want to share helpful things that were said or done for us as we went through our cancer adventures. Here is a list of actions and activities that most cancer patients will welcome.
1) Offer to listen. And then really listen. No talking about your own fears and agenda (or anything on the list from last time). Listen, help them process. If this makes you uncomfortable, then offer something else from the list below.
2) Take them a meal. Don’t offer, just do it. Better yet, organize their friends to bring meals. This was one of THE best things our friends did for us when my husband was sick. Frankly, with all the decisions that had to be made at the time, choosing what to eat or to cook or even to buy was overwhelming. Being able to open the front door and find healthy cooked meal was perfect. Our friends organized meals that came 3 times a week for 8 weeks. It was a lifesaver for us.
3) If they have kids, make play dates and or sleepovers. This was one of the hard parts for us when my husband had his cancer. Our kids were 6 and 1; our daughter was still nursing and couldn’t be separated, but our son was in 1st grade and had tons of energy. Unfortunately, the parents at the private school where he was enrolled really let us down. There were very few offers to have him over and it was a drain on me. We moved him out the school the next year because of this. I yearned for caring people to spend time with my son so that I could be there for my husband.
4) Offer to come over and do laundry, especially if they have kids. Laundry does not stop because someone has cancer. It needs to be done and it is very helpful when someone else does it. Having my laundry washed and folded was a real treat and helped us out immensely.
5) Offer to listen to the cancer patient’s spouse/partner. If they are married, the spouse is the one who is most likely doing everything, frightened out of his/her mind and receiving very little support. My husband and I both agree that while it awful to be a cancer patient, it is equally awful to be the spouse of one. So many people are focused on the patient, rarely is anyone offering to help the spouse.
6) If you can’t figure out what to do or what to say, then say so. Speak from your heart. It is okay to say that you don’t know what to say, and that you are there for them. Tell them that you are thinking of them and that they are not alone. One of the most comforting things I heard was from a friend who told me that I was not alone, going through this terrifying experience. She told me that all our friends were going through it with us. Even though we were on the ‘front lines,’ they were all freaked out with and for us as we moved through the cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery period. This was very helpful for me.
I always tell people that belonging to the cancer survivor club is one of the best clubs ever–it sure beats the alternative. Have you had a personal experience with cancer? Would love to hear what helped you get through it in the comments section.
As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!