I have been asked several times, How can you help a friend fighting a battle with cancer? Here are some of the things that come to my mind:
- Keep positive. Please don't say, “My grandmother died from cancer three years ago.” How will that help her keep a positive attitude?
- Help her compile a list of people she want to keep informed of her treatment process. It can be very daunting letting everyone know how you are doing and how many more treatments you have to have. There are many free blogs and websites patients can use to allow their family and friends to keep updated. Ask if she would like you to call or email all those on her list after appointments, etc.
- Offer to drive her to her appointments and offer and go in to her consultations to take notes of what the doctor says. Survival just becomes the norm and you get home and wonder what was even said. I had a great oncologist and they gave me lots of literature but the answers to your personal questions that nasty “chemo brain” just wipes from your memory the second you walk out of the oncology office.
- Pay attention. After my first chemo treatment I became to depressed and suicidal. I have NEVER been like that. I was too scared to say anything but eventually I did. Apparently my medications were reacting badly. My oncologist changed my medicines and whalla all those awful thoughts and fears disappeared immediately. Super, super scary. Really! Medications scare me now that I know how they can affect your mental state!
- Run errands for her. The “brain fog” or “chemo brain” is relentless so ask and remind. Bill payments, monthly errands, school commitments...
- Take her laundry home with you to do at your convenience (and so she won't feel like she has to entertain you while you do her chores). Especially if she has had breast surgery. It took me a good two months before it didn't hurt to switch loads after my surgery.
- Volunteer to have someone there to get her kids off the school bus or pick them up from school the first few days after each chemo treatment. If possible make arrangements for homework help and playdates for yournger children.
- Arrange for dinners to be delivered to the family. Freezer meals to keep on hand or hot meals delivered on specific days. Even purchasing the groceries to cook a specific meal can help illicit help from other immediate family members to help out in the kitchen. Avoid overwhelming smells and spices, they can trigger nausea.
- Bring the woman a cup of coffee the day after her treaments. It is too easy to stay in bed and skip that morning coffee then here comes that caffeine withdrawal headache to make things worse!
- Make a sign for her to put on her front door (Do not Disturb Please, I am resting). So important!
- Ask her to be honest and tell you if there is a particular individual she would rather not have help out or volunteer to care for her home or family. Then you can run interference for her.
- Arrange for housework and lawnwork that needs to be tended to. Don't forget to arrange to get the garbage out to the curb.
I am certain I have forgotten many important things. As I think of things I will add them to this list. I hope this helps. If you think of anything else jot me a comment!!