Texas Cancer Center Collects Suggestions on How to Help a Friend With Cancer
MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas has the reputation of being one of the premiere cancer centers in the country. They treat all types of cancer and people from around the world.
In one publication for the cancer center, Laura Nathan-Garner compiled information from their Facebook community to determine useful ways people can help their friends with cancer. Some people recommend asking cancer patients what they need or want before doing something to help.
Nathan-Garner, however, feels that asking first does not always yield useful results. She writes, “Some people may not feel comfortable asking for help, or the list of things they need help with may seem too long and overwhelming.”
Nathan-Garner embarked on this project to collect suggestions from cancer patients themselves. The goal? To share the suggestions with people who want to be proactive and helpful to their friends undergoing cancer treatments.
19 Suggested Ways to Help Someone Getting Cancer Treatments
The suggestions below come straight from people fighting cancer. The list includes ways to help with daily chores as well as ways to bring a smile to someone’s face.
- Go grocery shopping or get a list and order their groceries online for delivery.
- Help keep the household running. You can cook, clean, mow the lawn, do laundry, and dishes. You can pay the bills, help the kids get ready for school, make lunches, walk the dog. Anything that the person getting cancer treatment would typically do is something you help with to keep life “normal” for the rest of the family.
- Bring a cup of tea, coffee, or soup and stop by for a quick visit. Let the patient dictate the amount of time you stay.
- If you are not the primary caregiver, give that person a break. You won’t believe how much the caregiver and the patient will appreciate that. Send the spouse of your friend out for the evening, make him or her a massage appointment or fill in while he or she goes for a walk or the gym. Filling in for the primary caregiver will provide much needed relief and give everyone a chance to reenergize.
- Drive the patient to chemo, radiation, and other appointments. Accompany your friend to follow up appointments also. They can be extraordinarily stressful-even for years after treatment. Having company can make a huge difference.
- Take notes at appointments or when the doctor or nurse stops by during treatments. Many patients are in a fog during and after chemotherapy treatments, especially. It is not easy to remember all of the information and instructions they receive. Taking notes or even recording what gets said can ensure they have the information when they need it.
- Organize a meal train. Get a bunch of friends and community members to bring meals for several days or weeks while the patient recovers.
- Take care of their children. Take the kids to school or sports, help with homework, or invite them over for playdates. This can help the kids feel secure and distracted while easing their parents’ stress.
- Knit a cap or scarf or blanket.
- Pray, if that is something that gives your friend courage, strength, or hope.
- Just sit and listen. Acknowledge that cancer sucks, offer a shoulder to cry on and a safe place to vent concerns and fears. There is a lot of value in simply being present and sitting quietly.
- Play favorite music, share a playlist, or perform live. Music can transport a patient to a relaxing, calm place and distract him or her from treatments and related stress.
- Stay connected. Send texts, emails, cards, etc. Let them know often that you’re thinking of them. Call.
- Give them several gifts or cards at once. This way your friend can open something each morning. This is an excellent way to help someone get out of bed and can brighten their entire day. You can do this all yourself or gather things from other friends, family, and community members.
- Send fun treats in the mail. An unexpected gift in the mail is always a great way to brighten someone’s day when they are recovering from chemotherapy or radiation.
- If your friend is in the hospital, try to visit them. Even a quick visit from a friend or family member can make a big difference to someone in the hospital.
- Talk to your friend or family member like you always have. Be as normal as possible. It can significantly help take patients’ minds off of cancer.
- Make them laugh. Share funny videos. Recall silly experiences. Tell funny stories. Laughter has proven benefits.
- Find creative ways to motivate them to do what they need to do to get better- offer to walk with them at your favorite park, eat with them at a new restaurant, make their favorite foods, remind them to take their medications.
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