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Cancer- one word, and yet so many emotions associated with it. 4th February is World Cancer Day (WCD). Union for International Cancer Control leads this day to not only raise cancer awareness, but also its detection, prevention and treatment. Let’s encourage people who have cancer and remind ourselves to support them through their struggle every single day. Every one of us is familiar with this dreadful disease. We have all heard or seen someone get diagnosed with cancer in our lives, be it an acquaintance, friend, or a family member. It is not an easy time for the person suffering from cancer and his family members. People experience different emotions after hearing someone they care about has cancer. They feel confused, shocked, in denial and sad. Patience and love are two very important things that will help a family get through this tough time. Here are 10 things you can do for someone with cancer, even if they are not your family members.
Cancer Care Gift Baskets
You can prepare a gift basket for someone depending on the treatment they are undergoing. My friend received chemotherapy. I gifted her a hand lotion. She told me it was very soothing for her skin right after chemotherapy. You can prepare a gift basket with sanitizers, soothing lotions, recommendations for TV shows. It is difficult for cancer patients to leave their houses due to tiring treatments and medication. Therefore, you can give them gift cards for uber and food delivery services, so they can travel with ease as well as order food at home. Herbal and other kinds of tea is also a good idea.
Don’t change your attitude. Change your questions
A cancer patient wants stability and consistency in his life after his diagnosis. He wants to feel normal. Do not change your attitude, the way you talk and act around them. Change your questions, rephrase them. Do not say things like you know how hard it must be or how you can help them. Do not ask them if you should drop by. That only makes it seem like you want to do something but it’s also a burden on you to do it. Instead, ask about their emotions and feelings empathetically. Ask how they feel about their diagnosis. Ask if they are free in the afternoon when you’re going to drop by to say hello.
There are also many people who start advising and suggesting things. Someone I knew said to a cancer patient, “I wouldn’t do chemo if I were you.”
I read about another encounter online in a community of patients with cancer. They talked about how people start talking about their relatives and how they died due to cancer upon hearing of cancer diagnosis. You can see how insensitive and rude it is. A person who doesn’t have cancer cannot throw in her personal opinion to someone who is actually going through such a horrible disease.
Your words make a lot of difference.
Household chores and other tasks
A cancer patient’s routine is painful. Even the most mundane tasks might seem demanding. We feel no difficulty having to move from one place to another. However, it’s a considerably hard task for them. They are often hesitant to ask for help because they do not want to acknowledge that they are sick. Small tasks like grocery shopping, dishes, cleaning, paying bills for them, can matter a lot. If you’re making food for them, make sure it is nutritional and healthy. If you’re looking for ideas about the food you can make for them, you can check out top 6 best foods for cancer patients.
Physical contact to show support and affection
A lot of people have an unfounded fear that cancer is contagious. When people hear someone has cancer, they instinctively move away from that person, both physically and emotionally. People are afraid to touch the cancer patients. Many are also clueless and unsure of how they should act. This results in maintain a distance with the patient. It has several negative effects on the cancer patient. A mere hug and a pat on the back is all it takes to make a difference. It is nothing for us, but it can mean a whole lot for them. Physical contact establishes a stronger bond, one that speaks louder than words. It shows that ‘I am here for you.’
Reassurance and boasting confidence
Cancer is assumed as an automatic death sentence for a lot of people even today. The cancer patient themselves question if they are going to live long enough. They are concerned about their future if they will have kids and so on. They also worry about their roles being replaced. Suppose a woman working in an office at a high position is diagnosed with cancer. There is a possibility that the woman might be fired or replaced by someone else. Nobody wants to feel like they can be replaced. Reassure them that their roles will never be in jeopardy. It does not matter what their roles are. It can be a mother, father, caretaker, job position, friend, anything! They do not want pity either. Instead of showing sympathy, make them feel empowered, loved and confident.
Don’t leave them alone
I have spent a lot of time in communities and support groups for cancer. One of the most common complaints is something that happened after they revealed the news of their diagnosis to their family and friends.
“The first month and the second went great, and everyone cared, stayed in touch. However, after the first two months, everybody disappeared.”
Something you can do to help a friend go through one of the most brutal parts about having cancer, something that the doctors cannot fix, that is isolation and detachment. You should text them and check on them from time to time. There is a good chance that you will not receive any reply. You should continue to send them a message even then. Handwritten notes, flowers and letters are more great ideas to make them feel less lonely. Battling cancer is not easy, especially when you feel alone. If they are reacting in a certain way, find out the reason behind it. Talk to them. Push them lightly if needed.
They might be asleep when you visit them. However, do not leave. Make time and stay with them until they wake up. Cancer patients do not sleep as we do. They drift in and out of consciousness. They are used to waking up alone with a sudden realization of their life in turmoil thanks to cancer. So when they see someone sitting beside them, it’s a pleasant surprise.
Plan activities together
Cancer patients frequently feel dull, unenthusiastic about life and their future. They are uncertain about how long treatments will take. They also wonder if they are going to make it and when the next grueling treatment is. Give them something to look forward to. Make plans with them, get them involved in life again. It can lift up their spirits and improve their response to treatment. Plan a game night or a movie marathon with them. If they like singing, do karaoke. Binge-watch their favorite television series. Go out for walks. Their pain is a constant reminder that they have cancer. Do activities that distract them. Instead, give them something pleasant to think about.
Help them stay updated
One of the most troubling things on any patient’s mind is being left out. Cancer patients are most of the times unable to leave their houses. They also move away from social media. Visit them, get their phone and show them pictures, recent updates of their contacts. You can also type replies for them and send them out. It will bring them back to real life.
Give them their space
Having diagnosed with cancer followed up with never-ending treatments is a painful reality. Anyone would feel overwhelmed by it. If you sense that they want some space and quiet time for themselves, respect that. Let them process everything slowly, but also let them know that you’re there for them.
The most important of all things is time. Time is something everyone takes for granted. However, it is very precious to people with cancer. ‘My days are numbered’ is the most common thought that crosses a person’s mind when he hears the word cancer. The best gift you can give them is to show them that time is beautiful. Make every second worth it for them.
Image by Obsessive Potato.