There’s no etiquette class on how to respond to cancer. The only thing I can say is don’t be afraid to let people know you care. Cancer can be very isolating and the smallest gesture can mean a great deal.
Here are a few thoughts on how to reach out:
- Drop a note, an email or a text just saying you care.
- Find out when their treatments are and text or email them to let them know they are in your thoughts. Don’t ask for a reply; just let the know you are thinking of them.
- Remember the caregiver in the equation. Their stress is off the charts. Ask how they feel and listen. Ask what you can do to lighten their load. Give them a personal gift or a day off.
- Offer to run errands, walk the dog, or help with groceries.
- Give a gift. Periodic small gifts mean a great deal because they let someone know that you are there and that you care.
- If someone needs rides to and from chemo, doctor’s appointments and other treatments, volunteer to simple take care of all the scheduling. This way the person with cancer doesn’t have to make numerous phone calls, ask for help (an awkward thing for some people to do) and then coordinate everyone’s schedules.
- Invite the person and family places, even if they decline. Cancer puts you in an alternate world. Sometimes, that makes it difficult to interface with the so-called real world. But extend the invitation and let them know that they are still included!
- If it’s needed, set up a fund and contribute. Work days are missed and treatments are expensive, even with good insurance. If someone loses their job, set up an insurance fund to make sure they get the care they need.
- Give a gift certificate. Let someone have the joy of choosing something special or needed.
- Remember the rest of the family. If there are children, perhaps you can have them over for a sleepover or for a day of fun. Recognize that this is impacting them too!
- Take the long view. The cancer journey doesn’t end with a final chemo or radiation treatment. The emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis often lasts a lifetime.