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In case you missed it, here’s the beginning of the Journey – https://theinflightlife.com/cancer-interrupts-life/

What helps and what does not.

As I mentioned in a previous post, kindness goes a long way. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had noooooo idea how I could help someone except to say “I’ll be praying for you” or “let me know if you need anything.” Naively, I thought that was comforting.

It is and it isn’t. Let me ‘splain.

When I got the horrendous news, people would tell me they were praying for me. Great! I need prayers. I’ll take everything you got when it comes to praying for my complete and total don’t-ever-come-back-cancer-you-suck healing. If you are a stranger to me, I’ll take the prayers.

What is not as helpful is the “let me know if you need anything” comment.

Here is why. The person who gets a cancer diagnosis does not know what he or she will need right away. The cancer patient is so overwhelmed with life-changing information that needs immediate decisions that the “let me know what you need” is the last thing they want to think about. It takes the pressure off the person offering and places it directly on the person that needs the help.

I am completely guilty of this! I had no idea that the “let me know if you need something” can put more burden on the recipient because now they have to reach out to me if they need something. Many times I wouldn’t check back with the person because we all get busy and forget. I figured they’d call if they really needed me.

Now that I’m on the other side, my mind would go blank when people would say this. As time went on and I realized where I needed help, I did not feel comfortable enough to reach out and say, “Hey, I can’t move my arm, can you help me with XYZ?”

So to alllll the people I have EVER said this to, I AM SORRY.  Forgive me. I have learned my lesson and I now understand a LOT better.

How to Help Someone

As I mentioned, people don’t know what they need right away. The first two things that are ALWAYS helpful and appreciated are meals and money. Here is a list of ways you can help someone going through medical issues.

Meals

If someone is going through a difficult journey, make them a meal. Hate to cook? Buy them a meal from a restaurant. Live out-of-state? Send them gift cards to restaurants. All of this depends on the family. For me, I had a 1-day surgery and then couldn’t cook for a few weeks. People bringing meals to us lifted a huge burden off my husband who is my primary caregiver.

If a family is in and out of the hospital, send them restaurant gift cards. Since the caregiver will be in the hospital and needs to eat, gift cards are a blessing.

Fundraiser

People. All medical conditions cost money. You do not know the financial state the family is in, but what you do know is that medical costs are not cheap. In the first month of my diagnoses, I had to dish out over $1000 for copays. Unfortunately, it all went on a credit card because we are living off of our emergency fund (which the average American does not have).

If they have a fundraiser, donate to it. Don’t be shy. You will not know the deep gratitude they will have because you helped. Find out their fundraiser link. If they don’t have one, offer to set one up for them.

If you are setting up a fundraiser, make sure the company you pick gives the recipients all the money with no fees. I know there are plenty of crowdfunding companies, but read the fine print.

Babysit

If the family has young kids, offer to take them. Don’t say, “Let me know if you need help with the kids.” Of course they will need help, however, you have put the burden on them to ask you for help. Asking for help can be very difficult for some people. Give them options where they can accept or deny. Here are a few ways to say things

“I’ll watch your kids every Tuesday after school.”

“I’ll pick up your kids from school this week.”

“Let me take Jimmy to baseball.”

“Can I take your kids out for pizza and ice cream on Friday?”

Get the idea? Tell the parent what you want to do with their child. If the parent tells you, they’ve arranged for help tell them the offer is open-ended and you’ll check back.

Grocery Shopping

When recovering from surgery or going to chemo, getting food or necessities goes by the wayside. Tell the family that you are going grocery shopping and to give you a list. It gets a little dicey because the family may need the groceries, but can’t afford the trip (or they don’t have time to figure out how to afford the necessities). Here is where I would suggest one of two things:

  1. Get their list and pay for the groceries as a gift from you.
  2. Have them go through an app where the company shops for them (they pay) and you pick up.
    There are a few companies like Instacart or Peapod that will shop for you, but there are also a few stores offering this service (Walmart, Kroger, etc)

Either way, it will help with a chore that they won’t have time to do.

Household Chores

People going through medical issues sometimes have trouble with keeping up with their house. I did. I had a friend call me up and tell me she didn’t cook but to tell her what I needed at that moment. After going back and forth (I didn’t want to tell her because I felt dumb) I finally admitted that I was behind on the laundry. She was at my house 30 minutes later doing all my laundry.

If you have the gift of cleaning, share it with them! Go over and clean their kitchen, do laundry, or clean their bathrooms. Run a vacuum through their main level. Change their sheets. (This is a big one because there is nothing like fresh linen!)

The other option is to hire someone to clean their house for them. Give them a gift of housecleaning for a month or two. For me, a clean house helps me feel better, a messy one stresses me out.

Care Packages

When you are going through a life-changing event, nothing cheers you up more than receiving an unexpected care package or two. It’s like a hug from a friend. You can either put one together yourself or send a few items via Amazon. I’ve also received cards, flowers, homemade items, bath soaks, organic comfort foods and books. I’ll post some links to items I’ve received below.

Use Your Gifts

If you don’t know how to help someone, think about what you are really good at and offer that. We have dear friends who went through a horrible season of cancer. We were out-of-state and could not financially help them, but I am really good with computers and design. A company called Custom Ink allows you to create a t-shirt and sell it to the patient’s friends and family to help raise money. I did a custom design and set it up for them. It earned over $1000 for the family.

  • Are you a hairdresser? Give them free (or drastically reduced) haircuts while they go through treatment.
  • Do you sew? Maybe they need something specific like a mastectomy pillow.
  • Do you cut lawns? Mow their grass for a month.
  • Love creating essential oil concoctions? Make them some bath bombs, bath soaks, oil rubs.
  • Are you a massage therapist? Offer a massage.
  • Have a garden of flowers? Give them a bouquet.
  • Great at organizing events? Help them plan a celebration party once they are done with treatment.

There are many ways to show your support and care by using your gifts. What you do selflessly is noticed and appreciated. Whatever you do, do it without expecting anything in return, remember, the family is stressed and overwhelmed and may not remember to send a card or text a thank you. Do it because you want to help ease the burden of someone going through a huge life-change.

Don’t forget the caregiver!

The person taking care of the patient sometimes gets forgotten in the shuffle. Make sure you reach out to them, offer to give them a break, bring them a coffee or lunch, something to show support to the primary caretaker.

Here are a few gift ideas. These are all on Amazon so it’s easy to ship to their door.

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