We never know when or why, but at some point, everyone will be touched by cancer, often because a family member, co-worker, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance receives the diagnosis. You may be at a loss as to how to offer support to someone with cancer. Imagine how overwhelmed they must be feeling and how worried they are about maintaining a sense of normalcy in their family and keeping up their regular household routines. Most of all, they’re probably concerned about the impact that cancer will have on their children’s lives.
Here are some suggestions and ideas that may help you provide caring support and friendship to someone who recently received a cancer diagnosis.
Offer to Handle Household Responsibilities and Other Duties
Providing practical support can help relieve a cancer patient of a tremendous burden, and they’re sure to be grateful to you for all of your help. Practical support is all about pitching in to take over the responsibilities, chores, household duties and everything else we take for granted because we do these things automatically – without ever thinking about the possibility that we may not be able to do them.
Many people who have cancer may be worried that the laundry won’t get done, or that the kids’ lunches won’t get made in the morning. Who will take the children to school or pick them up, or how will they get to their after-school activities? We may take things like a regular weekly meal plan and grocery shopping for granted. What happens to all of these real life concerns in a home where a cancer patient can’t be left alone or when they’re too sick to handle things? What happens when the amount of paid sick time or family leave is used up and the spouse, partner or caregiver has to return to work?
Create a Network of Volunteers Who Offer to Help
Use social media, a neighborhood association, a group of social organizers at church, or any other way you can think of to find people who are willing to volunteer to join a team of individuals who form a support network to rally around a cancer patient and their family. Once you have a network of supporters, figure out what kind of support your friend, neighbor, family member or acquaintance will need. Some of the most obvious things a support network can offer include:
- Offer to do the weekly grocery shopping, or call to ask if you can pick up a loaf of bread or gallon of milk while you’re at the store.
- Drive the kids to school if they don’t take a bus, and pick them up after school.
- Offer to run errands. Pick up prescriptions, medical supplies, dry cleaning, return or get library books, or any other chores that may get swept to the side or overlooked.
- Volunteer to prepare meals. When a support group sets up a schedule where participants volunteer to prepare meals, you free up a caregiver’s time. Your generosity gives them time to be with their loved one, or spend time with their children, both of which they probably wouldn’t be able to do if they had to worry about preparing meals every day. Be sure to check with them for any dietary issues within the family.
- Set up a transportation network to take a cancer patient to appointments. By providing transportation, you may alleviate the concerns that a spouse or another caregiver has about having to take time off of work to take their loved one to treatment appointments.
- Volunteer to do laundry and other household chores. A caregiver may be so focused on taking care of their partner or spouse that scheduling time to do the laundry, change beds, or do general housework is easy to overlook.
Be a Loyal and Devoted Friend
Although you may have had a routine where you stopped by their house whenever you felt like it, it probably isn’t a good idea to ring the doorbell without calling first. Make a point of calling to check in — on a regular basis. When you call to see how they are, find out if they need anything or ask them if they’d simply like some company. By doing this, you’re reaching out to them and reassuring them that cancer hasn’t changed your relationship.
Wear bracelets or wristbands to show your support and sponsor a community fundraising drive. Wear t-shirts as a sign of solidarity, and pass ribbons around as a way to have an entire church or neighborhood get in on the action. Offering support for someone with cancer is all about collaboration, and doing things, however big or small, to make someone who is going through the cancer journey feel the love and support of everyone – not just friends and family.