When it comes to a loved one being diagnosed with cancer, it can be hard to know the right things to do for them. Everyone has different preferences and ways of dealing with hard times, but there is always something you can do! Here are the best tips and pieces of advice from those who should know best!
1. Send letters, care packages or gift cards that offer a little extra support and help.
My coworkers went together and got me a very generous Visa Giftcard that we could use anywhere to help offset some of our gas, medication and other miscellaneous costs. This was incredibly nice and generous of them and really came in handy at a time when we needed some relief. -- Laura Ybarra, currently undergoing chemo for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Choose gifts that are personal and useful that they will appreciate. My favorites are an e-reader that can be downloaded with books by that person's favorite author or an iPod shuffle that can be loaded with their favorite music. These are great welcome distractions during the long hours of chemo or waiting in a doctor's office. -- Lisa Lurie, cancer survivor and co-founder of Cancer Be Glammed.
Visits may be too much for someone who is severely ill or weak from treatment. If that's the case, get some greeting cards and mail one each day to the patient. Yes, snail mail -- it brightens someone's spirits to know they're thought of. Include jokes, affirmations, inspirational sayings and cartoons. -- Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author.
2. Think of the other family members and caregivers. They need support, too!
If the person has children, schedule a few outings or daytrips with them. The parent can rest and recover at home, knowing that the kids are safe and having fun. -- Stacey Vitiello, breast cancer physician and radiologist.
Reach out to the spouse, parent or significant other to ask them what you can do to help. They will know best. Offer to bring a meal, do grocery shopping or any other errand with which they may need assistance. -- Helen Szablya, Peritoneal Carcinomatosis survivor.
I think the most touching thing that family members and friends did for my family when my dad was ill was cooking meals for us. It may not seem like a big thing, but cooking for our family was nearly impossible with how much time we spent at the hospital. My mom and I didn't have to worry about cooking for my two younger siblings who were still in school. -- Caitlin Seick, lost father to cancer in 2009.
If you’re not the main caretaker, ask that person how they’re doing. Offer them support. Give them a break. Bring over a dvd movie, a piece of fruit, some cookies—something for the caretaker alone, or that they can share. Give the caretaker has a few hours of “me time” while you stay with the patient. -- Claudia Mulcahy, breast cancer surivivor.
3. Keep things as normal as possible by being yourself and doing activities together!
I needed to live everyday as though my cancer was not there. Even if it is just doing one activity that the person loves and can handle. Let them decide to a degree to what they can handle as well.-- Laura Ann Tull, breast cancer survivor.
Be yourself and be present. Don’t shy away and disappear and don’t try to be another person. They want the person you were BEFORE the cancer diagnosis. -- Susan Bratton, Chief Executive Officer of Meals To Heal.
Encourage them to get out of their home. Come over and take a walk with them, drive them around the block or simply sit outside with them. -- Nerina Garcia-Arcement, Ph.D Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
4. Ask, don’t assume.
Instead of assuming what they need, simply ask. Many friends and family of patients think that they should already know what they need, and what they should be doing for them. They will appreciate your straightforwardness. -- Molly Tyler, Director of e+CancerHome.
Ask if the patient wants to get phone calls, and then call within the acceptable hours to give news, or to listen, but don't make the patient do the talking unless he or she wants to. -- Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author.
5. Suggest support programs and websites.
Encourage the cancer patient or their support team to create a website so they can post the progress and not receive a million calls each day. -- Helen Szablya, Peritoneal Carcinomatosis survivor.
When someone is going through treatment for an illness, it’s hard for them to answer the phone and stay in touch with all the people who want to talk to them. Caring Bridge is a great service that they can use to keep everyone informed about how they are and in addition people can send them good wishes. -- Lisa Lurie, cancer survivor, co-founder of Cancer Be Glammed.
Encourage your friend or family member to join a cancer support group, this form of social support can extend their life. -- Nina Garcia-Arcement, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist.