- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions»
Support Someone with Cancer
We have all had someone we care about very deeply who has been diagnosed with that ugly and devastating disease called cancer. In some cases, we have rejoiced after our friend or loved one beat the cancer, or mourned their ultimate demise from this heartless killer.
This article talks specifically about supporting a friend with cancer and things you can do to make your friend - and yourself - come to terms with a cancer diagnosis. By supporting your friend, you may acquire many blessings and gifts you never dreamed possible.
Cancer has a way of making us face our mortality and gives us a fresh pair of eyes with which to see and appreciate what really matters in this life. Driving the fastest car, living in the biggest home, having the most money, etc. all seem to lose their luster when you realize that someone you care about is literally fighting for their life. Ask any millionaire who has been diagnosed with cancer what their #1 wish would be. I suspect it would not be prime box seats at a sporting event or a trip around the world.
Rather, it would more likely be health and quality of life. It might be enjoying, appreciating and loving the people too often taken for granted. The breathtaking beauty of a sunset, a warm summer breeze, the sweet sound of a songbird. LIFE - in and of itself.
Life as you know it can change in an instant with a cancer diagnosis. That is why supporting a friend with cancer is one of the most important things you will ever do.
I write for you, my dear friend
This article is dedicated to my beautiful friend, Linda. She always told me she thought it was so cool that I write articles and blog posts, so this is written just for her.
I sat next to Linda at work for three years. Her contagious laugh and smile, coupled with her spirit of adventure and fun, made her an easy person to become friends with. Despite being the lone Vikings fan in a Green Bay Packers town, you couldn't help but love her anyway!
Back in December 2011, Linda started experiencing severe back pain. The pain kept getting worse and no matter how many aspirin she would take or how much extra rest she tried to get, nothing helped her pain. You could just see her cringe with pain from simply walking across the room. She was encouraged to see a chiropracter, which she did, and it only made the pain worse.
One particular Monday in January 2012, Linda didn't come in to work. We were told that she was in such severe back pain that she was unable to even get out of bed. The week went by and there was no improvement. The next Monday, I came in hoping she was better, but was told the same thing, that her back pain was still so severe that she couldn't move.
A couple of weeks later, her supervisor called a department meeting. One of the guys came out of that meeting and told me that Linda had been to the doctor and diagnosed with lung cancer, which had already metasticized to her bones.
I could barely comprehend what he was saying.
How did this vibrant, energetic gal, who had just turned 60 only a month before, get this horrible disease? The kicker is that Linda had never smoked a cigarette in her life. She was extremely athletic and loved competitive sports. It just didn't make sense. Nonetheless, the diagnosis was very real.
For the next few weeks, after numerous tests and procedures, it was determined that Linda's cancer had spread throughout her entire body, and had even been found in her brain.
Recently, she elected to undergo chemo and radiation. I understand she has lost her hair and a significant amount of weight. A feeding tube is used to try to keep her hydrated and nourished, as she cannot tolerate even the smallest bite of real food. She has received injections into her spine of a material similar to cement, because the cancer is disintegrating her bones. Her pain is controlled with a lot of medication and she sleeps a lot.
Her family is in shock and devastated, as are all her friends. How do you process this kind of news? It is scary to think that a backache or other pain that you ignore, thinking it will go away eventually or chalk up to getting older, can be something as devastating as this.
I'm not sharing this story to depress or upset you, I'm just telling her story. Sadly, there are many more stories like this that come up everyday.
Despite all of this news and a complete change of life as Linda and her family knew it, she is in good spirits. If she didn't know it already, she is loved very much by so many people. Everyone is keeping her in their thoughts and prayers, and I hope she can feel the tremendous amount of love that surrounds her.
To give her support, here are a few things that her friends have done. If you need ideas about supporting a friend with cancer, please feel free to use some of ours, or add your comments to this lens and share other ideas. It's all about making your friend feel as much love and support as possible. The more ideas and ways to do this, the better.
Provide Meals for the Family
The last thing on the priority list of the family is grocery shopping and cooking dinner every night.
By providing a variety of already-cooked meals for the family that can simply be re-heated, it saves a great deal of time and headaches. It is important that everyone keeps eating, and provided that there is food in the house that can be quickly heated up at any time, odds are the family will eat when they are up for it.
I won't include a link to an outside website here on this lens, but you can type in your favorite search engine, "Take Them A Meal" and be connected to a wonderful website that allows people to sign up for meals each month.
This is a wonderful tool so anyone on the list can log on to the website to see what days are open and when a meal is needed. In addition, you can see what meals people are bringing so there will not be 15 pans of lasagna coming over that month.
It is a very efficient way to plan a nice variety of meals for the month. There is usually one coordinator of the family's web page on the site who can include special instructions about the meals such as favorite dishes, time for drop off and where to leave the meal so as not to disturb the family or wake a sleeping patient.
At work, we simply asked for people to donate some money for the family, with a $5 minimum, which would be collected and given to the family. We decided that by giving them cash, they could use it for whatever they wished. If they wanted to use it towards medical bills, medication, mad money to have around to save a trip to the bank or ??
In this case, we were able to collect a nice chunk of change that was used to purchase Linda a flat screen TV, which she LOVES. Now isn't that wonderful? Something that can give her enjoyment and she got to pick what it was!
There is nothing wrong with taking up a collection and then purchasing gift cards or putting together a basket of goodies like slippers, a comfy blanket and the like. However, by giving the cash right to the family, they can determine what to spend that money on. In this case, they probably would not have gone out and purchased a TV, so it was perfect that there was extra cash available to give our patient something unexpected and truly appreciated.
Personal Assistant Services
If the family is up for it, volunteer to run errands for them. Grocery shopping, dropping off or picking up cleaning, taking items to the dump, shopping for household supplies, etc. can take a lot of additional strain off the family.
Anything from walking the dog, mailing letters or acting as the spokesperson and contact so the family doesn't have to make numerous calls and repeat health updates over and over again.
Anything you can think of to help the family out and allow them to spend as much time caring for their loved one as possible.
Something that can really be appreciated is tending to the yard.
In our area, we had snow that needed to be removed from Linda's sidewalks and driveway, and those friends with trucks and plows headed right over to clear the areas.
When the warmer weather is here, the lawn will need to be mowed, weeding done and hey - every yard needs pretty flowers for beauty and color. The first crew has already been over there raking debris, mulching, planting flowers and getting the yard summer ready.
Fresh bird seed has been added to the bird feeders so Linda and her family can look outside and watch all of the many varieties of birds as they come to visit the yard. And nothing beats the smell of freshly mowed grass, right? By having a yard maintenance team put together, it will save family members a huge chunk of time not having to worry about or keep up with yard maintenance.
With the family's permission, pull out the lawn furniture and get it all shined up and set up. This will encourage family members to go outside and nosh in the fresh air, which is good for the body and soul.
Keeping in Touch
What we like to do every so often is to take pictures of as many of Linda's co-workers as possible and e-mail these pictures to her. For Cinco de Mayo, we all donned these ridiculous sombreros and held maracas! I know she had to laugh as she saw us all looking like dorks just for her!
Be sure to send cards and short letters or perhaps a small, cheerful fresh flower bouquet.
Buy one of those cards that lets you record your voice and tell your friend how much you miss them in your own words.
Find a short story of hope or inspiration and record yourself reading it. Send this over to your friend so they may close their eyes and hear your voice. It keeps the connection strong.
All of these things can help alleviate the lonliness, isolation and sadness that your friend may be experiencing, if only for a few minutes. It is so worth it and takes so little of your time.
Keeping in touch and keeping your friend in the loop can make a world of difference in their outlook.
Raise Cancer Awareness
One final recommendation (and again, I won't link directly to this website) is to enter the search term, "Choose Hope."
This is a great website which "supports cancer research and serves the cancer community."
Each form of cancer has its own special color, and by wearing a ribbon, bracelet or hat, you can show support and raise awareness for specific types of cancer. It is heartbreaking that there are so many. I think everyone is aware that the breast cancer color is pink, and for lung cancer, the color is clear or white.
Visit this website to learn more about specific cancer colors and their meanings, in addition to browsing through a wide variety of products that show support for specific forms of cancer.
Raise cancer awareness by making a donation
I do not know what the future holds for my wonderful friend, Linda. What I DO know is that all of her friends - and I do mean all of them - will make sure she knows how much she is loved, prayed for and supported every single day. I love you, my friend.
I am pleased to say that Linda is here - two years after her diagnosis - continuing to fight this battle. She's lost about 100 pounds, but the feeding tube is gone. She continues her treatment with chemo and radiation, and is closely monitored for any changes in her condition.
All of her friends and family continue to move forward with efforts to support, care for and love her. Every single day, Linda demonstrates her remarkable strength and unshakeable faith, in addition to setting an amazing example of dealing with a devastating situation with patience, dignity and grace.
Don't be shy about showing your support to anyone with cancer. Your donations get us all a little bit closer to a cure.
Please feel free to share your stories and ideas about supporting a friend or loved one with cancer.
God bless everyone who is fighting cancer, and also to those who support them during this incredibly scary and difficult time.
Good Bye, My Friend
September 30, 2014
RIP my dear friend
I will forever remember, miss and love you. Save a place for me...