As someone who was diagnosed not too long ago with breast cancer, I have had the honor of being on the receiving end of sweet friends and family who have helped my treatment and tough days be as happy as possible. Below is a quick list of a few simple but extremely meaningful ways to support a friend with cancer.
Offer to Go Along to Appointments
Oftentimes, going to appointments can be very scary and daunting. Having a friend or family member along who can take notes or help ask questions on the fly is incredibly helpful.
Type Up Doctor Notes
If you are able to go along, type up the notes after the appointment and email them to the patient. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself, “What did she say?” and was so thankful to be able to refer back to the notes for clarification.
Set Up a Meal Train
Surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and nonstop appointments mean no time to meal plan for the family. A SignUpGenius put together by a great friend for several days after each of my rounds of chemotherapy meant I could stress less about what my family was eating, and more about spending time with the kids or resting. MealTrain.com is also a great option!
Offer Gift Cards for Meals
No time to cook? Sending a gift card is also an amazing way to bless a friend with cancer. Chemo side effects can hit on different days, so having a gift card handy is so helpful!
Send a Text or Call
If your loved one pops into your head, shoot them a text or call. I am a complete introvert, so sometimes I don’t respond or call back, but knowing someone is thinking about me means the world.
Don’t Get Offended
This goes with the last idea — I cannot tell you how much information is thrown at you when you get diagnosed. There are hours of internet research (even though every doctor will tell you not to), numerous appointments, and decisions on treatment options (for me it was lumpectomy? Mastectomy? Skin-sparing mastectomy? Double mastectomy? Reconstruction during initial surgery, or delayed reconstruction? How many opinions should I get? Where do I get them from?) — then sitting and wondering if those are the right decisions, praying, crying, laughing, and oh yeah, don’t forget about those kids who also live with you! I would often go straight from an appointment to carline.
So, please give your friend grace and keep being there, even if they don’t call you back. Oh, but please answer if we do call, because we may be on the verge of a meltdown. We are a needy bunch.
One of my friends made me laugh one day by sending me an actual cancer card. It says, “This card may be used to get out of anything.” And of course, it’s good forever. Another time I was doing a white elephant gift exchange with friends, and I didn’t want to lose what I had opened so I said to the next friend “You can’t take this from me, I have cancer!” and we all laughed until we cried. You may have had to be there, but some days, laughter is the best medicine.
Send Fresh Flowers
Who doesn’t love a gorgeous bouquet of flowers? They don’t have to be expensive, either!
Offer Items for Waiting
My husband and I quickly learned that appointment times are sometimes just a suggestion. A good book, crossword puzzle, devotional, or a new set of pens or planner to help pass the time is super helpful.
Assist with Items for Treatment
If your loved one is going through chemo, items like fuzzy socks (you often use ice packs on your hands and feet to prevent neuropathy), a heated blanket (especially if the patient is cold capping), a big water cup (drinking water is huge when going through chemo), a list of Bible verses or inspirational quotes, green teas, ginger chews or antinausea wristbands, peppermint LifeSavers, peppermint essential oil (it helps with nausea), fun stickers for the water bottle, or a subscription to Netflix or Disney+ so the time can pass more quickly are all awesome ideas.
Take the Kids for Something Fun
Right after I received my surgery date, one of my friends said to me, “I signed your kids up with mine for an activity at our clubhouse the day after your surgery.” The kids had a blast, and I got a few extra hours of rest!
Take the Patient’s Spouse Out
When I say cancer affects the whole family, I mean it! My husband has done an amazing job of juggling me and my emotions and appointments, his business, and picking up where I leave off with the kids. Spouses need some fun too, even if it’s just a beer at a friend’s house to chat about all the things.
There you have it — my list of some ways to encourage a friend who is going through a tough time with cancer! I really could not have gotten through the last several months without my tribe. What are some ways you have helped a friend through a tough time?