It is absolutely devastating and overwhelming when a loved one gets diagnosed with cancer. It can leave you in a state of shock and helplessness. Obviously all you want to do is make everything better and help. But often you don't know the right thing to do. Our wonderful FVCK CANCER tribe have given us tips on what family and friends can do to help somebody battling cancer. These are all accounts from first hand experience so well worth a read:
Stay in contact! Communicate even when you don’t know what to say. A simple ‘how can I support you’ goes a long way
Pick a couple of recipes and buy the ingredients. Ask if they’d like you to cook the recipes ... and/or if they’d like to cook with you. Perhaps they like cooking so it might be a good time for you to do some dusting/vacuuming. Ask if they want help (which is likely that they want you to relax or nap) so rest if you can. I have blood cancer (multiple myeloma) and I’m always tired. Actually, it’s 12am and I’m wide awake tired. Grrrrr
When my mam was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, I took on the roll of "secretary". I kept note of all appointment dates and times, kept track of her weekly weight checks at chemo visits etc. It took a lot off her mind when she knew she didn't have to worry about remembering appointments and other info. 😊
Talk to you like a normal person. I had a friend who was going through a break up but she didn't want to burden me and would always say oh its nothing compared to what you're going through. How about you give me the option? Ask me if you can have a rant, am I up for it or am I too tired to think today. At least give me a chance to be your friend. Sometimes I need the escape from my own drama.
- Make freezable homemade meals
- Keep a schedule of their appointment dates (my mom used to hate it when we asked her to remind us), and then check in with them
- download their fave TV shows onto an iPad
- offer to tidy the house or walk the dog a few times per week (if they have one)
- gift them with professional, specialist treatments or services (i.e. at-home massage with a specialised therapist, home cleaners, cooks), a silk pillow case, a book, a warm toque (beanie), creams, lip balms
- and just be there, physically and emotionally
It’s important to know that everyone is different; what one person likes isn’t what the next person does, eg some people want visits, and others want space — so be sure you know what their preferences are.
Oh and one other thing I wish I did - I wish I let my emotions show a bit more, let my mom see that I struggled at times, but instead I was putting on a front all the time...
My Nan used to say she hated being treated like she was a victim. She used to say she'd ask when she wanted help and hated people presuming she couldn't put the hoover round or cook a meal. Just ask ❤️
Food - dropping off home cooked easy meals to reheat or freeze
Find out what coffee or food places there are in their hospital. I had in patient chemo and the hospital food was terrible so I lived in Costa and M&S food in the hospital - getting e-vouchers for either of them was 👌🏼 coming home to a clean house and fresh sheets was always a dream 😊 lastly friends to still talk to me and involve me in non cancer life stuff.
The comments above are excellent and I think cover all the key practical things. But having recently had my wife taken from us by cancer the one thing I would repeat/emphasise is looking after yourself as the carer and don’t be afraid to call on others.
I was terrible at this. My wife fought cancer for two-years and she constantly told me to talk to others and share my emotions. I rarely did and I think at times it was probably to the detriment of us both. So don’t be scared to lean on others, speak to others, be a little selfish when it’s appropriate and time allows. Speak to your family and friends about this and give them the heads up. Looking after a loved one with cancer is exhausting, both emotionally and physically, I promise that the carer taking care of themselves will be benefit the loved one going through a cancer journey.
Clean your house! And take the kids for a few hours...preferably overnight! This is a good one to give not only the patient a rest but the husband/wife/partner too x
For me two of my close friends took the lead; making bakes, doing my nails - they even painted my room (as that’s my chemo den! 🤣💕) I’m half way through my treatment at the moment but my best friend drives me to my chemo appointments (although she can’t come in) we spend that valuable time together. Like everyone has said keeping in touch with a text - checking in and don’t be afraid to ask questions; I felt talking / explaining my plan / process has helped me
Relaxation helps me. Before I got cancer I worked in palliative care (I hope to go back) I'm trained in relaxation and use it on myself now. I find it really does help. ❤️
Food shops and the dishes never goes a miss! But also genuinely being there when we need an extra hand. Sometimes it’s also great having someone from outside the cancer bubble to tell you you need a rest as a carer, it’s hard to hear but when they can provide a bit of respite it’s really necessary
Keeping you included in everything. It’s horrible to feel left out sometimes. You still might not join in but to still be invited and still be told what’s going on in their lives.
Some cooked meals dropped off.
To have people check in on you from time to time.
And just an ear to listen. Or a person to cry to and get a big cuddle from 💕
Talk to us! I found people have kept their feelings in because they don't want to over load the patient with how they are feeling but sometimes it's harder not knowing how and what you're family and friends are thinking! As much as cancer happens to the patient, it happens to everyone around them too!
Oh and pizza!! Pizza helps! X
Treat us as “normal” people, not victims. We may have cancer but we’re still ultimately that same person you knew before that diagnosis. Just be there 💜
I lost a friend I'm 2019 to cancer she was only 34, and living abroad away from her it was tough as I couldn't be there, but we were having a conversation once as I apologised I wasn't there to help her , but she said the best thing about talking to me was that I never asked how she was feeling or was able to fuss over her we just talked a out tv shows, celeb gossip, podcast reminisce on school and she'd up date me on what was going on where we grew up, so I guess perhaps try and treat them as normal as possible and some times I guess pretend the cancer isn't even there.
To be a 'communicator', in that they can tell the extended family of updates. Saves exhausted phone calls, especially when (me) hasn't really processed any updates yet. Send the odd text messages of normality. Non cancer related chat is always great. Check in with the person's other half directly (especially if in the same house).
Also follow through. I'll be there, let me know what I can do, etc don't work. More direct action. I don't like asking friends for help but tell me you're going to do something and do it. My neighbour saw me looking rather grey, told me to go home and she would pick up daughter from school. She also turned up in the morning to take her. Another neighbour told me she was going to make me some soups for my freezer and she turned up with soup for me. I'm in the supermarket, what can you eat today. Things like that are helpful
Keep checking in. But rather than asking “how are you” (we get that a lottt), have normal chat. About what’s going on. The weather. Tv. Anything but cancer. I feel like I talk about it tooo much sometimes 🙈
Just do something rather than ask . If anyone asked me I would generally say “no thanks I’m fine” ( says me with stage 4 cancer and suffering from treatment side effects!! 🙄) . Whereas if something was just done such as shopping, cooking or cleaning I wouldn’t even need to think about it.
Obviously it’s more difficult with bloody Covid thrown in . Order a takeaway or do an online shop could be a good thing to do.
Also treat them the same as before cancer... the messages I appreciate the most are just the general day to day ones with jokes etc rather the people that contact once every 3 weeks saying goodbye luck for treatment or good luck for scans etc .❤️
Be there on the end of the phone and by text even when we don’t have the energy to reply. It's amazing to feel loved when your struggling to love your self. Just do don’t ask is key I am rubbish at reaching out for help but my amazing support net work nail it they rock up and do at just the right time x