When a person first gets a cancer diagnosis, they’re often so overwhelmed they have no idea how to ask for help or what to ask for — but they sure need it. Make your friend’s life easier by anticipating her needs and giving tangible, much-needed support. Here is a list of the top favors people did for me that made my day (and made my life much easier!) after my cancer diagnosis.
By Elana Miller, MD, Contributor
On December 17, 2013 I went to the ER for what I presumed was walking pneumonia (as a physician, I’m good at misdiagnosing myself) only to find out I had a giant tumor in my chest that could have killed me within weeks. Immediately I was admitted to the hospital and started on chemotherapy for Stage IV Acute Lymphoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma.
Over the following months I experienced a whirlwind of physical and emotional changes. The treatment became increasingly arduous, and I lost the ability to perform even simple functions, including working, driving, preparing food, and running errands. At 31 years old, I thought anyone taking away my independence would be prying it from my cold, dead hands. Unfortunately, that was almost the case.
Thankfully, I had a community of supporters — family, coworkers, friends — who stepped up and took care of me when I needed it most.
When a person first gets a cancer diagnosis, they’re often so overwhelmed they have no idea how to ask for help or what to ask for — but they sure need it. If you have a friend or family member with cancer you want to help, don’t make the mistake of making a vague, questionably-sincere offer “Well, call me when you need me!” (they won’t).
Instead, make your friend’s life easier by anticipating his or her needs and giving tangible, much-needed support. Here is a list of the top favors people did for me that made my day (and made my life much easier!) after my cancer diagnosis.
1. Deliver a meal. Make sure to ask in advance if they have any dietary restrictions or are following any guidelines. Stay for a visit, or just drop off the food if they’re not up for it (a cooler left outside the front door is perfect for this).
2. Deliver a Tupperware of several pre-made meals your friend can heat up as needed. Use Tupperware you don’t need returned.
3. Send a quick email, text, or message saying you’re thinking of them.
4. Add “No need to respond” to the end of your message — they’ll appreciate hearing from you without feeling the need to do anything in return.
5. Add “Feel free to take me up on this offer whenever” when you offer help — they’ll know the offer will still be sincere whenever they need it (in a week, a month, a year).
6. Set a calendar alert reminding you to check in with a quick hello or offer of help on a regular basis.
7. Send a text the next time you’re at the grocery store and ask if they’d like you to pick anything up.
8. Send a text the next time you’re at the drugstore to see if they need any toiletries.
9. Send a housekeeper to clean up their place. Take care of the details so they just need to be there to open the door.
10. Send a text the next time you’re at the pharmacy to see if they need any prescriptions picked up.
11. Send a mobile masseuse for a gift massage.
12. Offer to take them out for a coffee or lunch date.