Recently I’ve had a few readers contact me with the devastating news that their loved ones or friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Every time I hear that news it takes me right back to the day I was diagnosed and wishing I knew then what I now know.
These people have reached out to me because they want to know how to best help their loved ones. Well how long is a piece of string? Too long, so I’m going to give you 10 tips to help someone with a cancer diagnosis.
These tips can be translated to helping anyone but are written from my experience. From time to time I’ll do more posts with more tips so stay tuned.
1. Don’t pretend that cancer isn’t happening. Use the word ‘cancer’, ask your loved one if they want to talk about it.
2. If you don’t know what to say that’s ok. Ask, “so where are you at in your treatment?”…or “how’s today?”, ” would you like to talk about it?”
3. It’s ok to cry, it’s also ok for your loved one to cry. Tears come n go sometimes the floodgates open and other times just a few tears. Tears are just emotion bubbling to the surface and believe me they’re better out than in.
4. Organise a cooking roster because the last thing someone with cancer wants to do is cook. If they have school age kids it’s a great way to get the school community involved because everyone wants to be able to help. Families can also work out a roster. Make sure to check if their taste buds have changed or if mouth ulcers affect what they can or can’t eat.
5. Organise for groceries to be delivered. One of the hardest things I found was a loss of independence when I couldn’t drive, at times for stretches of 8 weeks. Thankfully friends picked me up and took me to the shops but online groceries is definitely something that helps. If you live interstate this is a good gift or pop a supermarket voucher in the mail.
6. Organise a house cleaner. It’s something I couldn’t bring myself to do. Eventually we hired one just as I was starting radiotherapy and kept her for 6 months…I wish I had hired her at the very start because I really could have used her through chemo.
7. If you have a holiday house or know of someone who does then be a doll and lend it out. Time together and making memories is essential and precious. For me I had to give up my job which meant losing my salary so holidays on the cheap certainly help when money is tight.
8. Losing your breasts is a blow to our femininity and your self esteem takes a battering. Give the gift of a pretty cotton dressing gown or girly pyjamas. Nail polish, hand creams, lip gloss will be appreciated too.
Here’s a tip…the darker the nail polish the better if going through chemo in summer. It helps prevent nails falling off so go all out and try black polish but be careful of standards at nail salons as cuts or nicks are a portal for infection. I had a friend come to my house one day and give me a pedicure on the back lawn…now that’s love.
9. Help your friend to get it all out…the thoughts and emotions. I purchased the prettiest mint green leather journal even though I had never ever journaled. I had cards with inspiring words, candles and crystals in a little corner of my lounge and it all helped me to get my thoughts out so they didn’t eat me later.
10. Plan girly catch ups even if they are for medical appointments. Having someone or something to look forward to makes a difference. My friend came to all my chemo rounds with me and my mister, afterwards my mister would head to work and my friend and I would head out for a long lunch. We practically ate our way around Adelaide.
There’s 10 tips but I’ve got many more. I hope it helps, whatever you do…don’t be absent because that hurts. If your friend or family member can face their mortality and bat up for treatment week after week then put your big girl pants on, put a smile on your face and be there…hold her hand, make her laugh and tell her she’s pretty even when she has no hair or eyebrows. Life is short…have no regrets.