One of the worst parts about having a loved one with cancer is the inevitable feeling of helplessness that comes with the diagnosis. While so much of cancer treatment happens in the doctors office, I have seen first hand how important it is to have a strong support system outside of treatment.
Every form of cancer treatment, whether its chemo, radiation, or surgery, is utterly exhausting for the patient. It can be very easy during this time to let spirits fall. Here is where friends and family can help. Below is a list of ways to help your loved one keep spirits high, which is half the battle in fighting this disease.
- Become a penpal
- This is my favorite way to show support! Not only is it super affordable but it is also the most heartfelt. There is no better feeling than getting a card with loving, encouraging sentiments. Whether you live out of town or down the street, definitely send a card. Make sure not to just send one and forget. Why not flood their mailbox with support and send a card every week? There's just something about finding something special and handwritten in the mailbox rather than a typed email or text. Include a photo or inspirational quote they can take to treatment. It will not only make their day, it will be something they keep and cherish throughout their journey. My Mom kept every single card she received over her treatment. On nights she was feeling particularly defeated she would bring out those notes and cards and read them for a little pick-me-up.
- Organize a support group
- No, I don't mean a group of people sitting in a circle talking. I just mean to gather a group of friends that can take turns helping out. My best friend had her husband deployed for nine months. All of our girlfriends signed up for a month to send her something in the mail to get her through the difficult time. This same idea can be applied to someone going through cancer. Each person can sign up for one week. During that week, you would be focused on making their life a little easier. If you are religious, you might organize a prayer service. I organized one for my Mom when I was living out of state along with some of her best friends. She was totally surprised and blown away by the love and support that the community showed her that night. It really puts more pep in their step when the patient feels like they are genuinely not going through this alone. That kind of attitude is invaluable when walking into treatment each week.
- Sign up for a run in their honor
- Sometimes its the little things that make a big difference. My Aunt and Uncle did this for my Mom and it absolutely made her day. During the months and weeks of chemo, so much of the battle is just taking it day by day. It may seem like such a trivial thing to those not battling cancer, but to someone going through treatment, just a little glimmer of thoughtful news like that can fuel their fight more than you know.
- Offer to babysit
- My youngest brother was in high school when my Mom was diagnosed. I cannot imagine how families with little ones manage to get through the week balancing chemo rounds and childcare. If you know someone with cancer who still has children at home, offer to babysit. Don't just offer on the weekends, ask about weeknights too. If you are unable to actually babysit, offer to drop off and pick up the children from school. Basically, anything you can take off their plate, even for a day or two will be a huge burden off their shoulders.
- Take them to the movies
- Get their mind off reality, even if for an hour or two! Let them escape, its healthy. If they are physically up to a trip out of the house, the fresh air will do their spirits good. If by chance they are too weak to leave the house, bring over a movie with some fun movie snacks. Call ahead to set up a time to do this so you can watch with them and keep company. It will mean so much to have a friend over to share with. Just one more thing to make them feel like they are not fighting this battle alone.