5 Things You Can Do TODAY for a Loved One With Cancer

5 Things You Can Do Today for a Loved One with Cancer

When someone we love is diagnosed with cancer, we often find ourselves at a loss. A sense of being uncomfortable, or unknowledgeable, or uncertain often comes across us. Maybe we are devastated, angry, or helpless.  It’s difficult to know what to do...and so sometimes it is easier to do nothing at all.

But trust…. That little voice in the back of your head telling you to reach out shouldn’t go unnoticed. Now more than ever, your loved one and his family need their tribe to rise up and show love and support in a tangible way.  If you’re feeling unsure about what to do, here are 5 simple things you can do TODAY to bring some light and a smile to their day.

  1. Be in touch.

A cancer diagnosis can leave the patient and her family feeling isolated.  Reach out with a simple call or text.  A quick message saying hi and letting them know you’re thinking about them is perfect.  If they don’t respond - don’t worry.  It’s always nice for them to be reminded that they’re not alone, and that when they do need you, you’ll be there.  In fact, feel free to begin or end your message with the words No need to respond!

  1. Be of service.

Offer to bring dinner for the patient’s family - and ask in advance if they have any special dietary restrictions.  Set up and distribute a meal train (with their permission, of course).  If you are close to the family, wash the dishes that are piled up in the sink or throw in a load of their laundry. (Please do not do this if you aren’t a close friend - most people aren’t comfortable with acquaintances touching their dirty laundry.) Always be mindful of how long you stay... either be aware of their cues, or simply say “I know you need to rest, so I will only stay a minute.”

  1. Be specific.

Rather than asking, “Can I help?” or even, “How can I help?” ask if you can do a specific chore for them:

  • “I’m going to the store - what do you need?”
  • “I’m taking my kids to the park this afternoon - can I bring yours along, too?”
  • “I’m at the pharmacy - do you need any prescriptions picked up?”
  • “Can I send my cleaning service to your house next week?”
  • “Can I come by this weekend and walk your dog/mow your lawn?”
  • “Are you up for going to the movies tomorrow?  And if not, can I bring one to you?”

This is often a much better approach because the patient may feel uncomfortable about asking too much of people or won’t be able to come up with something he needs done on the spot.

  1. Be mindful.

Don’t bombard the patient or her family with different alternative remedies or homeopathic solutions. Mentioning something once can be nice and is generally appreciated, but know your place.  There’s an almost unlimited amount of information out there about different “solutions” or “cures” - and it can begin to feel like a daunting, frustrating, or discouraging attack to have multiple people offering their strong opinions about how the patient should move forward with treatment.

  1. Be generous.

Bring your loved one a gift.  Need some ideas?

  • Gift cards to practical places are super helpful - Costco, a local grocery store, gas cards.
  • Give him a subscription to Netflix or Hulu.  
  • Offer a beautiful scarf to a friend who will lose her hair with treatment.
  • Gift a hospital bag or a “chemo kit” so that everything the patient and his family will need during hospitalizations and treatments will be in one place and ready to go.
  • Audiobooks, adult coloring books, or movie theater giftcards can all be a welcome distraction.

Look… cancer sucks.  Being diagnosed and navigating through a new life of treatments and procedures is not easy.  When someone you love has received a life-altering diagnosis, your love and your prayers are important - and so is your presence. So do something today for your friend who’s received a cancer diagnosis, and remind him that he’s not alone.

Peace, love, and f*ck cancer.