Monday, January 18, 2010

What You Can do to Help

    Last night I was chatting with a friend of mine on Facebook. She knows that we battled cancer in our household and asked if she could ask me a question. "Question away", I said. Well she had a friend who had been recently diagnosed with cancer and was in the beginning throes of the chaos that a cancer diagnosis brings. I am a member of Wellspring and often spout the benefits that I have reaped from this wonderful place. If you have never heard of it, it is a cancer support centre that offers emotional support to those in need. It offers many programs to its members and is free to anyone who has cancer, is a caregiver or friend of someone dealing with cancer. They have been a lifeline to me in my journey the last few years. She was asking me about what exactly they offer and what I knew about children's programs for families dealing with cancer. Ultimately what she wanted to know was "how can I help?". She, like so many others, is afraid of saying something wrong. The unfortunate part of that is that often people just back up and leave you alone, for fear of making you upset. That, in my opinion, is exactly the wrong thing to do. Imagine yourself being faced with a life changing/challenging/threatening disease and having surgery/chemotherapy/radiation thrown at you in a short period of time. Once diagnosis has been made, speed is of the essence and there is no time to sit back and analyse what this means to you and how you feel about it. Seemingly the rest of your life is asked to be put on hold, so that you can tackle the disease. This can become your life. Everything else takes a back seat. It is different and scary and makes you feel alone. This is not a time when you want people to abandon you. You may not be able to fix the problem that is rearing its ugly head, but you can still do something.  I wanted to share the chat I had last night, but unfortunately  lost it. Then I remembered that many moons ago I pondered what was beneficial for me when I was going through the crisis of cancer. I thought I would share those thoughts with you here. Make of them what you will and take whatever you need to;

What You Can do to Help

  • Listen

  • Offer hugs, compassion, empathy

  • Food

    • it is the last thing one worries about when dealing with a crisis, but important

  • Shovel snow

  • Cut grass

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem odd or dumb
    • it is my life however chaotic and your interest is better than pretending nothing is going on and nothing is wrong (EVERYTHING is WRONG!)
  • Help with babysitting if appropriate or visit with the sick person so the caregiver can get a break
  • Keep calling and keep offering
    • some days I am stronger than others and some days I might need more than I've got
  • Offer to go to doctor appointments, so the caregiver can get a break
  • Offer help with picking up medication, groceries or going to a class together (ex. yoga, meditation), even doing the laundry might help
  • Make some days "normal" just by visiting, going for coffee or a drink
    • normal is gone, but stability is desperately sought after
I then highlighted in my little book important people to me and why they had been important. I guess it won't hurt to share that either.

My Important People were
  • Cris (close girlfriend with children similar age)  - babysitting, playdates (normal), talking about anything, asking questions, Hugs
  • Kerry (out-of-town sister)  - daily phone calls and love, listening, visits during crisis with meal making
  • Mom (out-of-town) - empathy, love, offering personal insights from her experience (my Father also died from cancer when she had two girls under 5 years of age), regular visits, presence during crisis, meals, laundry, "normal" phone calls
  • Carole (yoga teacher and cancer survivor) - asking questions, empathy, sharing personal experiences
  • John (friend) - help with painting, listening, offering love
  • Jim (husband's co-worker and friend) - regular calls and visits, help with household projects, smiles, love
  • Neighbours - friendly smiles, encouragement, help with house maintenance (raking leaves, snow shovelling, coffee/drinks)
  • Wellspring - listening, sharing experiences, hugs, safe spot to cry, remind me of loving kindness to self
  • Daycare - child minding, help in crisis, listening
This list is not comprehensive, but is what struck me at the time. Some of these people were helpful before and/or after Brad died. I share just to give examples of what might help. I also thought this might be more interesting than my fair of the last week. Be well my friends.

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