A college girl’s guide to navigating the “C” word.
I’ve had a feeling I should write this for a while now. What can I say? I have so much compassion and love for people impacted by cancer, I want my life’s work to be helping them. This post will be raw, rough and honest. People are too soft sometimes, too careful, and side-step way too much. In my mom’s two-year battle with cancer I’ve seen a lot, a lot of good things and a lot of things that could have been a little better.
One thing I’ve observed with cancer is that nobody knows what the heck is going on….ever. The person who has cancer doesn’t know, the family doesn’t know, and those around them really don’t know. It’s an uncomfortable word, filled with fear and hate. People don’t know how to navigate it. I didn’t two years ago, and I’m still trying to figure parts of it out. So this post may seem like a rant, but really it’s just honesty. People want to help, really they do. But, it’s hard to know how and where to help…right? I want to give people some insider advice of the best ways to help people with cancer. We had so many angels help us, people who really changed our lives. I want other people to have that option as well. So, with-out further ado, here’s a 20-year-old’s “do and don’ts” when it comes to cancer.
- First things first. Don’t, and I mean never should these words ever escape your lips. Don’t ever under any circumstance say to someone who has cancer or loves someone who does “whatever happens will be for the best.” Take it from me, they already know there’s a chance the cancer could be followed by death. They don’t need to be reminded. And they especially don’t need you digging the grave.
- Don’t bombard them with questions. It’s overwhelming and terrifying. I know you may be curious, but people still need to be people. Ask them about school, work, projects, anything that’s positive. By doing this you are enabling them to recognize something positive in their life and talk about it. And, chances are they’ll guess what you want to know and tell you anyways. This just gives them the power of choosing to tell you. It’s weird I know, but to them it feels more positive…and that makes all the difference
- Don’t ignore them. They need you now more than ever. Be a friend, invite them to do normal things, and treat them how you treated them before. Their world is topsy turvy, normal is an absolute necessity.
- Don’t get impatient and frustrated. They’ll have mood swings, they act like absolute crazy people. They can’t help it, period. You don’t know what they’re battling at the moment. Just love them, be patient, and forgive them.
- Don’t cry all the time. It makes everyone scared and uncomfortable. You need to be strong for them. They have the cancer after all.
- Don’t drop by the hospital or their home all the time. Chemotherapy sucks. They wouldn’t ever say anything, but it makes you sicker than sick, and entertaining people is not an appealing option right then.
- Tell them you love them.
- Offer to help. Chances are they won’t accept, but it will mean something.
- Send them a card, a letter, a note, social media, a phone call. Invite them to lunch etc. Tell them to pick the day, that way they can choose an off-chemo week. It will make their day.
- Bring frozen pizza. It’s hard to decide what to take to help-out with meals. When the endless Tupperware of spaghetti and lasagna have cleared…pizza sounds wonderful. And it’s something they don’t have to eat right then, they can store it for a time when they really do need a meal. You are empowering them to still feel like they are in control of their food and cooking. Popping a pizza in the oven is pretty easy too, so you both win.:)
- Send care packages. Send them books, puzzles, yarn, things they like to do. Recovery can get pretty boring, and you’re giving them another tie to something normal.
- Most importantly just be there. You may not know what to do or say, but your presence can do more than words. Be strong, they need it.
I honestly don’t know how my family would have made it with-out our wonderful friends and family. We were blessed with people who knew exactly what we needed, when we needed it. For that, and many other things, we will always be eternally grateful.