Do you have a friend or family member who is going through chemotherapy? Do you want to reach out but you aren’t sure what to say? Well, hopefully I can help. Firstly, I have written a couple of posts that might help. The first one –6 things you shouldn’t say to someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer, and the second, 5 things you should never say to someone who is going through chemo.
The reality is that there are no right or wrong words, but we appreciate they all come from a good place. It’s when people go silent or they don’t acknowledge you that really hurts. Both Mr C and I have had people who have suddenly gone quiet, friends who know what we are going through but they haven’t reached out or acknowledged the big cancer elephant in the room. It’s not a nice feeling. However, we appreciate not everyone knows how to approach the “C” word. Mr C and I have discussed this, and we have what we call the magical 3 ’S’. You can’t go wrong with sorry, sh*t and support. For example –
“I’m really sorry to hear this, that’s really sh*t, I want to support you, what do you need doing?”
Perhaps you have reached out to your friend or family member who is going through cancer and you have offered your support, but you are unsure where to start. You can’t go wrong with asking them what you can do to help, but here are 6 other suggestions as to how you can help.
Cards or little gifts
This is perfect for anyone who is doesn’t live close by. Show that you are thinking of them by sending a funny card. Chemotherapy is so mundane, it’s tough and at times it can feel unbearable. Put a smile on their face by sharing your funny stories and send a card to show that you are thinking of them. You might also want to send a little gift. Be careful if you are buying a gift as there will be some things you need to avoid depending on what type of chemo they are on. A quick google should help. For instance, hand creams and body moisturisers are lovely but chemo can make a patient’s skin highly sensitive. Burts Bee products are a good option. Find out what the side effects of their chemo are and see if you can find a little gift that might help to relieve them. I received some really thoughtful gifts which helped me manage my symptoms. If you are unsure of what to buy, you can never go wrong with novels, puzzle books and magazines as these will help pass the time in the chemo chair. You can also never go wrong with flowers (although do check before you send them as some chemo patients need to stay away from fresh flowers) or a plant.
Cook for them
Chemo can leave a cancer patient feeling exhausted and the last thing they want to do is cook. However, it’s very important that they carry on eating as they need to keep their strength up. Now more than ever they need to be eating nutritious food. You could bake some lovely home cooked meals, which will be much appreciated
Go to the shop for them
Doing the food shop can be an annoying chore at the best of times. Ring up and find out if they need anything from the shop. Pick up some basics like bread and milk and drop it round to their house.
Do the cleaning
The last thing they will want to be doing is cleaning, but we know the saying – tidy house, tidy mind. There is nothing worse than feeling poorly and having to look at a messy and dirty home. You could help by quickly throwing the vacuum round, putting the dishwasher on, putting a clothes wash on, or just doing some dusting.
Help with the childcare
Chemo can leave you feeling exhausted and that can make looking after children an extra challenge. I’ve fallen asleep on the settee mid-game before. You could offer to take the children to the cinema, or just babysit while your friend or family member has a quick nap. You could even offer to help with the school run.
Go for a walk with them
Cancer patients are encouraged to try and do some moderate exercise every day. You could offer to go with them on a gentle walk. Not only will you be helping them physically, but they will appreciate getting outside with a loved one and it will be a great boost mentally.
You can really help them
There are many ways you can help someone going through chemo. They don’t want it all to be about cancer so keep things normal and share your stories and talk about what’s being going on in your life as you normally would. However, it’s vital that you acknowledge what they are going through. Don’t let there be a cancer elephant sat in the room.
It’s important that you understand there will be days when your friend or family member just wants to be left alone. Don’t force your company on them, just accept how they are feeling. Chemo can leave a person feeling emotionally and physically drained. It’s essential you always check before you show up at their house. Also, if they cancel on you last minute don’t take it personally. That’s the nature of chemotherapy. You can be feeling okay one day and then lousy the next.
Listen to them
When you are going through chemo you can feel like you aren’t in control and that can be scary and daunting. You can help by opening up conversations with them but respect they might not want to talk. Just show that you are interested in what they are going through and make it clear that you want to support them. Let them take the lead when it comes to the conversation as this will help the chemo patient. Conversely, you can encourage the conversation by asking open-ended questions.
Finally, it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. Laughter is always needed. Make them laugh. You know what they say – laughter is the best medicine.