When a friend or loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it is often hard to know where to start when it comes to supporting them. Although everyone asks, “What can I do to help?” they may not know exactly how to answer. Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can often take a lot out of a person. Offering to do something simple that your friend or loved one would otherwise do themselves can be a huge help. Here are 15 ideas:
1. Deliver a meal. Homemade or otherwise, a hot meal can often mean that your friend or loved one doesn't have to be up and using their energy cooking or going out to pick up food. Family style meals are great, but it's also nice to pack individual servings into tupperware that can be easily heated up as needed. Homemade meals are often felt as something from the heart which also nourishes their tired bodies.
2. Clean the house. If time allows, spend a few hours cleaning their house. Clean the bathrooms, do a load of laundry, mop the floors. If time is not in your budget, get together with some friends and hire a housekeeper to help out.
3. Just be there. Sometimes they may not feel like talking at all. They just want to know that they are not alone. Quiet company can provide a lot of comfort. Read a book alongside them. Rent a movie and watch it together. Let them talk if and when they are ready.
4. Drive them to treatments. Offer to drive them to chemo treatments. If you can do this on a regular basis and keep a standing time, that's even better. Often, just knowing they aren't alone makes the experience easier.
5. Surprise them. If they are experiencing hair loss, brighten their day by bringing them a soft hat, scarf or sleep cap. Watch scarf tying videos together and experiment with new looks if they are up to it. Help them select a wig and learn how to take care of it. Organize a hat party and shower them with headwear for their journey.
6. Check their mail. Sometimes just getting up and walking to the mailbox is a huge task for cancer patients. When you go to visit or drop something off, take the time to stop by the mailbox and grab the mail to bring in with you.
7. Help with pets and children. Offer to care for any pets or children your friend or family member may have. A dog walk or a sleepover with the kids could offer some much needed relief.
8. Yard work. Water their yard, tend to their garden, or cut the grass. Outdoor tasks can be extremely taxing, so offering to do these chores can be a great way to show that you care.
9. Open Ended Invitations: Add “Feel free to take me up on this offer whenever” to the end of any message offering to do something. This way, they know you will be there whenever it's needed, not just in that moment.
10. Incorporate Them Into Your Daily Routine: When you're at the grocery store or drug store, send a text asking if your friend needs anything specific picked up.
11. Supply the Basics: Send a text asking what brand of toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, or any other paper product your friend prefers and then keep them stocked up on these basics.
12. Text Invitations: Sending a text, instead of calling, when offering to take your friend out for coffee or ice cream can often take the pressure off of them feeling like they need to say yes if they aren't feeling up to it.
13. Take the Pressure Off: Send an “I'm thinking of you” text, but add “No need to respond” at the end to help take the pressure off of your friend, who is probably being bombarded with texts and calls.
14. Help with correspondence. Offer to respond to any emails or texts that your friend or loved one just may not be up for taking on. They can talk and you can type.
15. Organize. Create a schedule for others who want to help. Knowing who is delivering what meal, who is driving to chemo, and who is visiting when, can really help.