1. A person diagnosed with cancer does not have leprosy. It is not contagious! Because of our fears, not knowing what to say, our superstitions or for what other reasons, often we want to keep a distance from a cancer survivor so cancer won’t penetrate our world. ( I lost some acquaintances, which I thought were friends, because I learned I had cancer and they became afraid of me and still are.)
2. If you want to help, don’t treat the cancer survivor like they are a big black wad of cancer walking around or that cancer is the only thing they want to talk about. They really like other subjects and will love you if you bring other things up to talk about too. Yes, they will need to vent or receive support, but they also want to be a person, not just a person with cancer.
3. Don’t ignore them especially when they look different. You don’t have to pretend they are not bald when they are. Ask them how if feels? Tell them you feel weird. They feel you are struggling–and they are struggling too! Be honest and use humor to break the ice.
4. Do not try to connect by telling them about the dog, the mother, the whoever you knew who had cancer…and died! Wow, thanks for sharing that with the person who just found out they had cancer! Telling them someone died and then catching yourself by saying…Oh that won’t happen to you!” This does not make the situation better. If you don’t know what to say, just say, I am here anytime to just be with you.
5. After you hear about your friend or family member and you come home and sit with your family and say, “Wow that is so terrible,…. please pass the mash potatoes.” Yes life does go on for you. For the cancer patient it does too, but in a new way from what the old life was. Don’t forget that that person a week, a month or even a year after still needs to have a simple recognition that you continue to have them in your prayers. They need to have constant support from anyone who will give it sincerely.
6. Something that I will re-comment on often. The very best thing a person can do for a cancer survivor is PRAY for them. And tell them you are. IT IS POWERFUL AND THEY WILL FEEL IT!
Call to Action:
#1: Set up a care calendar for your cancer survivor when they know what their schedule is for any surgeries, chemo therapy, radiations or the thousands of appointments they will have to go to. This allows friends to sign up through the internet. (Spouses let your close friends or family do this and take this away from you!) (Thank you JH for this tip and LS who did it for me.)
We used carecalendar.org. This is the most fantastic, amazing, wonderful way for people to sign up to bring dinners, help with child care, sign up to help with rides or any other items that are requested by the person or family going through cancer. You can keep it dormant for awhile if the person with cancer has a break in between treatments or surgeries. You can request many different things, even dinner types. Calendarcare sends e-reminders, and you can access quickly through the internet without having to talk to anyone. Remember if you go through any type of internet care system and they ask for a donation, please send a few dollars to help their costs. This was the biggest lifesaver for me with four big starving sons and a very tired husband at home trying to get through with a sick mother. We received so many delicious meals. (Thank you my angels!)
#2: Ask the spouse or Partner if you can create a blog for the cancer survivor. This will save the spouse as well as the cancer survivor from not having to receive too many calls at this time. It is very exhausting and emotional when you have to tell the updates over and over. And it is often more comfortable for friends when you want to know how the cancer person is doing but feel strange calling.