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Published on October 16, 2018

supportive friends

#TryItTuesday: When Someone is Diagnosed with Cancer

Often when someone is diagnosed with cancer, family and friends are at a loss as to how to best offer support and encouragement. Here is a list that I came up with when I was walking my breast cancer journey.

Hope: Offer them hope at every opportunity. This can be through words wisely chosen, cards, emails or little gifts. It is really easy to get discouraged, especially when you feel ill, battle fatigue and are in pain.

Food: Freezer meals were a lifesaver in our home. Simple meals that can be put in the oven.

Knowing my family's nutritional needs were provided for offered me the chance to concentrate more on healing. Here are some other tips to help folks out:

  • Treats are good: When you are getting groceries for your own family, pick up an extra bag of chips, cookies or goodies. Members of the household will love you! Cancer treatment includes many extra costs, so "treats" are often cut from the budget.
  • Other essentials: A friend of ours brought such delight when he dropped off a big pack of toilet paper and some paper towels. Fewer things that my husband had to remember to pick up when he did errands and helped save us some costs.
  • Housekeeping: A group of our friends came and cleaned our home every two weeks while I was going through chemotherapy. This gift was very appreciated by all of us in our home. (If cleaning house isn't your thing and you can afford it, give a gift certificate for housecleaning services.)

Encouragement Is Critical

If the cancer survivor has a blog or Caring Bridge page, comment on their updates. These comments were a great source of encouragement to me, especially during the lonely and fearful times. Some other things that helped me included:

  • A friend of mine printed encouraging Scriptures on postcards. I still carry these cards with me.
  • Give a "blue bag." Put several small gifts in a bag to be opened whenever the survivor feels "blue." The gifts can be silly or practical. A friend gave me a blue bag, and I had so much fun anticipating each gift. (Yes, it did help me from feeling blue – knowing someone loved and cared about me enough to take the time to make this gift.)
  • Offer support for dreams to be fulfilled. Encourage the survivor to think about lost dreams and to set future goals and plans. Assist in helping them obtain their dream if possible. A few "dream believers" walked into my life and supported me so I could fulfill a dream of mine to attend the She Speaks conference in North Carolina. (A gift I will cherish forever!)
  • Pray with the survivor. Some days I was too weak to pray, but I coveted the times when someone would visit and pray with me, call on the phone and pray with me, or email me a prayer written for me.

Keep on Celebrating

At every opportunity – celebrate! Celebrate clean scans! Celebrate the half-way point of chemo! Celebrate the end of chemo! Celebrate the end of radiation!

Simple ways to celebrate are goofy hats or necklaces, bubbles, confetti, or special food treats.

We All Need Pampering

Cancer treatment is hard on the body both physically and emotionally, and here are some ideas to help you indulge those facing their journey:

  • Pretty hat or scarf (if they lose their hair)
  • Elegant, soft loungewear
  • Massage appointment certificates for when treatment is completed
  • Jojoba oil (Great for the skin.)
  • A gift certificate for "makeover" to be used a few months after cancer treatment is finished.

Time Spent and the Value of Family

When I was going through treatment, I felt as if my life was on hold, while everyone else was out having a good time. I still cherish the times when someone would take the time to sit with me. Time is indeed a precious gift you can give someone.

If the cancer survivor has a spouse or children, try to remember them. They often suffer along with their loved one. Here are some tips:

One night a group of friends came to our home...the guys took my husband out for supper, and the gals stayed home with me. The evening was such a blessing to us both.

Another friend took my 13-year-old daughter for a "beauty makeover." She delighted in a day of pampering.

If you can, give them gift cards to the movies, bowling, swimming, fast food and offer to sit with the cancer survivor (if needed.)

Please Avoid These Steps and Ideas

Please, please, please don't tell a person facing cancer about your Uncle Henry who puked his guts out when he was going through chemo. Knowing this isn't going to help, it just increases fears.

Other things to avoid include these:

Please, please, please don't tell them about so and so just died from cancer. Death from cancer is a reality. We know that. We live that. We don't need anyone reminding us of this possibility.

Please don't tell me that cancer is a gift. If you think it is a gift, I can wrap it up and give it to you.

Please don't tell me that God must really love me as He gave me this burden to carry. This goes against most theological beliefs. God loves me, period! The previous statement makes me want to say, does that mean He doesn't love you as much because you didn't get cancer?

Great Things You CAN Say

  • I love you! You can do this!
  • I believe in you! You are an inspiration!
  • You are beautiful! You are courageous!
  • Can I pray with you? God loves you!
  • God is with you every step!
  • God can carry you when you are too weak to walk on your own!
  • I am here! I am proud of you! Keep it up; you’re doing a great job!
  • How are you? (Don’t forget to stop and listen if you ask this question.)
  • I am praying for you!

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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