People who know me will know how deeply my family has been affected by different types of cancer, breast cancer included.
It is difficult to know how to help when first involved with someone affected by cancer, be they a cancer patient or carer. So, here is a list of Dos and Don’ts I have compiled, from my humble experience:
Do: Keep in touch: text, phone, or better still, meet up in person.
Do: Everyday things like have a cuppa and catch up on life, the universe and everything.
Do: Continue to invite them to social events you enjoy together… they may be able to attend, they may not. Cancer can be lonely for everyone involved – Still ask.
Do: Offer a listening ear if they want to talk about cancer and it’s affects, or anything else for that matter. It is good to have family and friends on your side. You don’t have to have all the answers. – Just be there.
Do: Offer practical support: a home-cooked dinner, lifts, hospital visits, support at work, babysitting, groceries or help around the home or garden. This is a judgement call depending on how you are involved, do what feels appropriate. It may be needed, it may not. – Still ask.
Do: Keep asking: situations change constantly.
DON’T: greet the person with a long face or say things like “it must be terrible…”, chances are, they were just popping out for a pint of milk and didn’t need to be reminded of shitty cancer.
In the same vein…
DON’T: give them a list of other people who are recently affected by cancer; they care, but need to save their energies for themselves and their loved ones. It won’t make them feel better. Chances are, it’ll make them feel worse. (Stuff that).
DON’T: Cross over the street to avoid talking to them…. It happens. It sucks . Just don’t do it. If nothing else, just say hello and talk about the weather. I know it can be difficult when you don’t know what to say…. but hey, not as difficult as dealing with cancer.
DON’T: Think ‘I can’t help’… Some of the kindest gestures came from people I was least expecting. If you are in a position to help, then offer it, it could mean more than you know.