Thursday, February 26

How can I help?

I got an email from a friend the other day asking a question about how she can help a friend that has cancer. I thought that would be a decent blog post, so here it is:

Some ways to help someone with cancer:
A big thing when someone with cancer is that they start to think about being faced with their mortality and that leads to thinking about time and how they use it and who they spend time with. Thus a big part of helping someone with cancer, in my opinion, is spending time with them. Depending on how severe their treatments are and their age they will probably have varying degrees of energy to do things and/or stay awake. While your friend, relation, or acquaintance might not say anything to the subject directly, simply knowing that people care and want to spend time with them is important and valuable.

Going along with the whole "energy level" thing I mentioned above: There are small "daily" tasks that probably need to get done that their energy level or health level might keep them from getting done. This could range from preparing meals to cleaning various parts of their residence. (vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning the bathroom, etc)

Something you should keep in mind as well is that when the person you know is going through cancer treatments that their immune system can take a hit and they can be more susceptible to illness than the average person. (This will vary from case to case, being in some cases: no immune system. To other cases where the person will be only slightly immune compromised. Find out where the person in your life is at with their health and judge your health condition in regards to hanging out with them.)

Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes things (medical or personal) will come up for the person in your life with cancer. It's hard to plan any sort of schedule when you could be feeling horrible one moment, or going to the hospital the next. If something comes up be flexible and reschedule as best you can. Know that this probably frustrates your friend more than it frustrates you.

I think the real key to helping someone with cancer is to be available for them (or their family). If they have told you about their sickness that is a good sign that they are inviting you, in some way, to help them out. (They might not know it) Sometimes the person in your life might be too proud to admit they need help or don't know what to ask for. This will require a certain level of, dare I say, sneakiness on your part. For instance: "Oh, I just came over for a visit but since I am here I noticed you have a pile of dishes that need washing! Let me work on those while we chat."

Conversationally, odds are good that the cancer patient has talked a lot about what they are going through with a lot of people. (or maybe they haven't) The goal here is to be open to communication. If they want to talk about what they have been going through, let them talk. You sit there and nod and make noises like, "Oh", "Hmmm" and "wow". On the other hand if they ask you what you have been up to, or what you have been doing, refrain from saying something like, "Oh, well not as bad as YOU!" or "Well, things have been going, but I don't want to burden you." In this case it's probably a good bet that the person doesn't want to talk/ think about their problems right now and wants to live a little vicariously through you.

It's always good to work up some kind of signal with the person you know so that when you do come to visit them that they can tell you, honestly, that they need to rest, or you need to leave. Maybe if they need to rest you can alternate things to do. Put on a movie, watch some TV, or offer to read a book out loud to them. (Or put on an audio book and listen.)

These are just some suggestions from a cancer survivor to people who are interested in helping. The to main things are 1. to be honest with each other and 2. for you (the non-sick one) to listen/ watch for what the person might be saying or not saying as to their needs or wishes.

And of course Prayer for your sick friend will never go awry. Weather they allow you to pray for them in person or not it's a good thing to keep them and their family in prayer. God uses all things, even the truly scary things like cancer. Remember this and support them in prayer.

I hope these suggestions help, I'll add blog posts as I come up with them.



  1. Anonymous8:22 AM

    I have been amazed at how people will really come together to help. And help with all kinds of things for those who are sick. I was amazed at people that didn't know your or Lisa would want to help you or us, just so we could spend more time together without worrying too much about some of the day-to-day things.

    I know that there are a lot of well meaning people out there too that want to help and think they have something that will cure (insert disease here) and think you should take these pills, or drink this juice or ?? Unknowingly, these people add a lot of stress to those they are talking to. (The one that is sick or the one giving care.) This is *REALLY* not the time to try to convince (read sell here) someone to try something new. So to add to Ben's advice, be a friend to the one who is sick. Be aware of what you do has an effect on them, whether that is having a cold and you shouldn't be around them to trying to 'cure' them.

    That's my 2 cents.


  2. Get blog entry! One tricky thing seems to be that many people react differently to being sick. You guys were very open with everyone, while others I've known hide away and don't keep anyone up-to-speed on how they are doing. While I realize we all cope in different ways, I actually pity those who "check out" from the society that cares about them. As Dad said, we were so blessed by all who loved on us while you went through treatment. We would have missed that blessing if we had kept quiet. AND the people that were blessed by helping us would have missed out too. It's many working together, not just about the individual.


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