I got a lot of great feedback about my last post. I decided do a part 2 and add some suggestions from other survivors. Again, if you have additions please comment or email. There are many people out there who want and need to know how to support a loved one. Lets help our fellow fighters by telling the world what makes us smile, feel happy or even feel bad! How are others suppose to know if we don't tell them!
Say "I'm coming over with (books/magazines/food/plants whatever) and I can drop it off or come in and visit if you're up to it." Outside of a very few people, "Let me know if you need anything" is a well meaning but empty offer. There aren't many people outside of family that you can ask to make you a meal, do the dishes, or take over care giving while you nap. But if you just show up and do it while simultaneously letting on that the ball is in their court -- well, that rocks!
Offer to make meals and drop them off at your Fighters home. When someone is fighting cancer the last thing they can do is cook. If they are lucky enough to have a caregiver that person is usually exhausted as well and it would mean the world to them if you could contribute some yummy meals. I included a site that has recipes :)
Offer to take the patient to appointments and/or sit with him/her during chemo treatment. A fighter should never have to go to treatment alone. These treatments can take up to 8 hours, I know mine did! When you're there you can read to them, watch tv with them, chat or just support them in silence.
Listen attentively with saucer eyes and don't try and interject with your own story. Don't feel you need to make sense of it for us with a grand philosophical observation. It doesn't make any fucking sense. Many many many Cancer Patients are the kindest, bravest, purest souls we have ever known. So, why did they get cancer? We're in no mood to puzzle it out with you.
Put surgery days and check up days on your calendar and then magically know about it and call and offer encouragement. We just LOVE that.
Send cards and emails often. Big expensive gifts were not necessary. Some Cancer patients hate flowers so find out how your loved one feels about them.
Remember the caregiver -- they need strength too.Many care givers stay in the hospital for days or weeks and sleep in chairs or on little couches next to their loved one. Be a good friend and if you can take the caregiver to breakfast, lunch or dinner near the hospital. This gives the caregiver a chance to talk, eat a nice meal and have a couple of good stiff drinks to get them through a tough time.
Leave your judgments at home. People with cancer have the absolute right to lash out and be nasty now and again. Pain, chemo and anesthesia will do things to a person. But still, it hurts! It shouldn't be too shocking if a caregiver needs to vent. Let them get it off their chests so they can get back in there and keep going. Cancer isn't like day to day life. It's ugly and beautiful and it brings out the absolute worst and best in people in shifts.
General Gift Ideas from my readers!
Netflix Membership. Meg's mom paid for a membership to netflix every month while i she was sick- So she didn't have to get up and go to blockbuster to see new movies!!
ITUNES Gift Card. Meg was was home so much and was downloading all types of music.. for her ipod to listen to at treatments!!
Humor Books. Get your friend funny books to read or have read to them. Often I had surgery at least 1 time a week or up to 3 times a week. My friend Laura bought several books that had quick funny entries and my father would read them to me while I waited to be put under General Anesthesia.
There is a great site one of my readers shared with me that has TONS of cool gifts for the cancer fighter in your life! Cancer Apparel, Cancer books & CDs, Buttons, Gift Baskets, Assorted gifts, Jewelry, Cancer Sucks stuff, Wrist Bands, Caregiver gifts, New Cancer Products, Treatment Days Thanks Stacey!
Cool Swag for Knitting Freaks!! Us fighters get bored laying around all the time. If your fighter knits this site was recommended by another survivor. Totally Awesome stuff for everyone who knits.
Knit them something. If you can knit this is a great gift! Terri's friend made her one of these and she loved it.
ths girl donates 100% all net profits to th LLS!
this is a grate place to send flowers, and you can choose from tons of charity's to donate 10% of your total cost!
Tutti Fruity Designs
10% of every sale to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Twenty percent for featured products. Cute things for little kids and their moms.
Sports Gifts for Cancer Fighters
this is a unique gift place for sports fans
Cancer Research UK Gifts
this is for our UK frends
Chillow Pillow for those whose treatment results in menopause (Thats me & it sucks!)
Gas Cards for those who have long drives to their treatment centers. It can add up b/c often treatment is every day for months upon months.
Personalized Gift Baskets
Ask us to call you and give you updates. We're a little preoccupied.
Tell us you feel left out of the process because you haven't been called with regular updates.
Grill us about why we're not pursuing alternative courses of treatment instead of traditional western medicine. You can trust that we've been doing our homework on this one. And we're both too tired for the debate.
Assume that any healthy meal will be good for the patient. If the patient is going through chemo, ask the caregiver what they can eat and follow those guidelines.
Tell us that you can relate because you once had "lasik surgery" and it was very traumatic. (a true story!)
Stay too long. If we beg you to stay, then that's another matter, but after 15 minutes offer to leave. The caregiver might be more honest than the patient.
Get too focused on coming to the hospital. Many hospital days are packed full of grueling and exhausting procedures. There maybe only a small window of time when the patient is comfortable enough to see anyone or not going through some kind of terrible ordeal. There is plenty of recovery time at home. Also, hospital stays are filled with leaking body fluids and bags that might be embarrassing to the patient.
Unless you have had cancer or been the spouse of someone with cancer, there are few comparisons that will be comforting. So be careful about cancer anecdotes! We didn't want to hear about anybody who had died, or anybody who had an easier time of it than he did. We only wanted to hear about the ones on death's door step 20 years ago who now have 10 children and a multi-national company.
NEVER EVER say "you have to be brave" to a person with cancer OR their spouse. That's just rude. We have to be brave sometimes and then other times we have to crumple up into little balls and cry and be cowards. Other times we have to be really, really fucking pissed off. Keep your stupid platitudes to yourself.
- these are all great and I am sure everyone of us can relate to at least a couple. Please pass it along so everyone knows the do's and don'ts of supporting someone through their battle.
Thank you Hayley for all these great pieces of advice! You are a strong woman and we all thank you for sharing your advice with the world!!