The reality of caring for someone with cancer isn't easy. There is a lot to know and understand. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, it is common to panic and not know where to start. It is normal to wonder if they are going to die or wonder how you can help. I am a cancer "survivor" or better yet "thriver" inspired by another cancer "thriver" and author, Lynda Wolters.
The topics chosen for this post are not as common and certainly not exhaustive. A couple of the most critical themes to take away from these articles is that your compassion for the patient and primary caregiver is vital for healing. There are many ways to show compassion, even if you don't live in the same city. Don't be faint of heart or be afraid to talk to your loved one or friend about what is on your mind.
In Lynda's new book, Voices of Cancer, she writes, " every cancer story is different, but there is a commonality: both patients and the people supporting them often struggle to properly articulate their wants and needs through a particularly challenging- and in many cases, uncharted- territory." Lynda Wolters knows firsthand: she was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal mantel cell lymphoma in August of 2016."
It is true that with every cancer diagnosis, there is a Cancer Shift. There are many ways to support cancer patients. First understanding that your loved one may not respond positively to specific common phrases like, "At least you got the good cancer." It may seem like a positive thing to say, but there is no way to know the outcome of any cancer. Death can still occur in common or early-stage cancers. This blog, What Not To Say to a Cancer Patient, will highlight a few other phrases.
Another tough not often discussed issue, is that many people do not want prayers or religious sayings. After Lynda spoke with many cancer patients, she wrote a blog on this topic and offered some very loving words to share when this is the case. I have added her thoughts in the article titled, "Not All Cancer Patients Want Prayers."
If you are going to the first cancer appointment, you can download a checklist to help get your insurance information worked out and document the current medications. Understanding how your insurance will pay will eliminate a significant source of stress.
If you have to travel for cancer care, there many non-profits like, The Cancer Foundation of New Mexico, whose mission is to help those with financial challenges accessing treatment.
Once cancer treatment begins, there are many side effects, depending on the course of treatment. Chemo is a general term, and each cancer has its own concoction of chemicals. Some chemo doesn't cause hair loss, many do. Common side effects on our blog include Cancer Fatigue, Mouth Sores, and Being Cold.
If you are still reading, I want to congratulate you on being an Empathy Champion! You are seeking to understand and find ways to help. Additionally, here is a link to the blog, 5 Tips to Help a Cancer Patient. A more detailed version is Ideas to Support Someone Going Through Cancer or a Serious Illness.
Lastly, if you don't have time to help daily, let your patient know what you can do to help. Being clear about what you can do and can't do is far more meaningful than disappearing. If you find out about someone's illness seemingly late, it's never too late to send them a note, call, or send them a comforting gift. At Chia's Silver Lining, we have taken the guesswork out of what to purchase. Our mission is to provide Comfort, Compassion, and Community for anyone going through this journey.