A cancer diagnosis involves the whole family, not just the patient

Nevermore so when it comes to children with leukemia or other forms of cancer. Here are a few tips for supporters that help with a cancer diagnosis, chemo, radiation treatments, family caregivers of cancer patients.

Don’t wait to be asked – volunteer! Many people with cancer or other illnesses are uncomfortable asking for help. Of course, you should ask permission before doing something like mowing the lawn or cleaning out the refrigerator, but don’t be afraid to say, “I’m here to help… what can I do?”

If there are children in the family, volunteer to take them for a night before a scheduled surgery or after surgery, or at any time during radiation – chemo treatments or during the recovery and healing process. Moms and dads will be grateful for the opportunity to have a little quiet time for themselves.

Volunteer to do the laundry, run errands like picking up prescriptions, take kids to baseball practice or ballet class, make meals that can be frozen and re-heated (be careful of dietary restrictions like allergies – if you’re not sure, ask). In the latter case, be aware that chemo will usually leave a person experiencing nausea, mouth sores, and food aversions, so include friendly snacks like homemade broth, plain muffins, sugar cookies, plain crackers or breadsticks.

Ask permission before visiting, and don’t be offended if you’re asked to come another time. When you do visit, the old axiom of “listen twice as much as you talk” applies. Listen to your friend, let them vent, and if they cry, offer tissues and comfort, not platitudes. When you do talk to them, don’t relate horror stories – remain focused on the positive. Above all, just be there. Contact is critical.

Don’t stop supporting your loved one when remission has been achieved.

Cancer changes a person, and it can be incredibly difficult to return to a “normal” life after undergoing such a traumatic experience. Don’t expect them to just “get on with it.” Remain supportive, not critical. Keep calling, sending cards, visiting… take them out to lunch or shopping. Stay connected.

Other great ideas: treat the person to a spa day or a massage before surgery, or after chemo/radiation treatments are done; offer to accompany them to yoga classes (deep breathing techniques can help with pain management and nausea control, and gently stretching the muscles prevents atrophy); knit a hat, a pair of warm socks, or a cozy blanket (chemo patients are often cold); if your company permits, transfer some vacation days to a colleague with cancer so they can go away for a week before commencing treatment.

Caregivers need support, too. Don’t forget about the patient’s primary caregiver, often a family member like a husband or wife. Volunteer to learn about any necessary medical procedures that are done at home, so you can offer to give the caregiver a day off. Phone weekly to ask how they’re doing, send a card or practical gift like a gift certificate for gas (this can be a big expense if the treatment center is far from home), or just be there to listen when it’s needed.

Article source: greeting cards for cancer patients.

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