Everyone deals with crisis differently, and hearing “cancer” is an immediate crisis. As a loved one, you want to rush to their side, hold their hand and tell them everything is going to be fine. But not everyone wants to hear that – and not everyone even wants company when they’re coping. So, what can you do?
My best advice is to ask how your loved one would like support, and know they may not be completely truthful. You may have to be patient or even impulsive. You will have to be creative. In honor of how old I was at my diagnosis, I’ve compiled 35 ways to show your support for a loved one battling cancer: 17 to do immediately (below) and next month, I’ll share 18 things you can do when your friend is halfway through treatment and everyone else has stopped showing up. (Because it happens — and oh yes, we will talk about that, too!)
- Try every means of communicating your support to see what seems to help the most: phone calls, cards, texts, emails, carrier pigeon (OK not this one because I’m all about the immune system and – just no). The journey we’re on means no two days are exactly the same. We feel nauseous, we feel exhausted, we feel bitter, we feel hopeful. You never know when your outreach will come at exactly the right time.
- Offer to drive your loved one to chemo.
- Offer to stay with her during treatment – and promise only to talk if she does.
- Pick up a copy of your favorite funny book and tuck it in her purse when you see her — and make a point to see her.
- Collaborate with a group of friends to order a blanket covered with your smiling, happy faces at events she will remember fondly and with a chuckle.
- Find soft socks with vibrant designs. Because my feet were always cold and those hospital socks are just so clinical!
- Schedule meals for her family using a site like mealtrain.com or signupgenius.com. This was so helpful to my family as cooking dinner for everyone was one last thing they had to worry about it.
- Put a cooler outside her door with a note: “I may be too tired to answer the door but I love you for stopping by!” Trust me when I say some days, I just wanted no contact with the outside world. Plus, my appetite came and went (mostly went), so conjuring up a genuine enthusiasm for a flavorful dish meant adding “actress” to my survival skills.
- Loan your entire season of [insert Netflix binge session here].
- Make a “keep your chin up” book using pictures of friends and loved ones with messages from each. Keep it small, so she can tuck it into her bag for chemo or keep by her bedside at home
- Fill a beautiful jar or box with little notes to lift her spirits. Every time she needs a boost, she will see your handwriting and encouraging words. (Toss in a few private jokes or funny memories, like “remember that time…”!)
- Shave your head in solidarity. OK, maybe not — and no, we really don’t expect you to because you have awesome hair and it’s bad enough I had to lose mine! But what about having a hat or scarf party/girls’ night out? Everyone brings one beautiful scarf to gift her.
- Create a coupon for talk-free time together. You may have heard the term “chemo brain,” where a patient is just too exhausted and drained to make decisions or conversation. This handmade coupon will promise time spent together without any expectation of conversation. (But don’t promise that you won’t make funny faces occasionally.)
- Offer to go with her to doctor’s appointments – with a notebook in hand so you can take notes while she listens. I was lucky, I had my sister and mom for this. They never once let me go alone. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
- Find something small that she can keep in her pocket or purse as a lucky charm, whether it’s a stone from your favorite hiking spot or be creative with a standard pink, rectangular eraser that you can write on with Sharpie: “Erase stress!”
- Find small comforts she can bring to treatments: a neck pillow, a soft blanket, a lotion she loves (ask for her favorite first – sometimes smells can be too strong).
- Hug her gently, love her warmly and celebrate her daily.
Next month: 18 ways to support your friend when she is halfway through treatment and everyone else has stopped showing up. (We tell the truth around here 😉 )
Such an inspiration
Thank you Lori xoxo
Sherry – you are my inspiration. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer back in 2007. I’ve been free since..except 3 weeks ago they found a mass on my right kidney that’s cancer. I will be having my kidney removed June 14. I have read your blogs and watched your story on Nascar. I look at what you’ve been through and tell myself that if you can overcome your cancer I can too.
Sherry, thank you for the gift of hope. You are an inspiration and I love hearing your ideas. I was diagnosed at stage 3c in Sept. 2011. I recently had a second surgery and I’m now enjoying my 3rd remission. We can do this! Thanks for raising awareness.
Hi Carolyn! Yes We can!!! Life is short, live each day to the fullest!!! We are fighters! Thank you for your kind words! Enjoy your remission, I’ll be praying for you to have many years of health and happiness! xoxo – Sherry
I am a huge Nascar and Martin Truex fan so when I heard about you, I followed your progress and at the end, I was SO happy you beat this and you are now in remission. Unfortunately, my sister Josephine was recently diagnosed with ovarian and fallopian tube cancer, stage 2 and she has started Chemo and had her 3rd. treatment and she lost her hair. I sent her your box and she printed out your story from the internet, you have inspired her SO MUCH!! Now when she has her chemo treatment, I just say, think of Sherry!!! I’m not sure if you will read this because you must get so many emails, but I would just love it if you can reach out to my sister with your kind words and inspiration. She is having a tough time and hearing from you will help tremendously!! Thank you Sherry and I truly wish you good health and happiness with Martin!! The email address I have posted is mine but you can reach out to me and I can give you her contact information. Thank you bunches!!
I saw this blog this morning and it was such a blessing I start 16 rounds of chemo tomorrow for breast cancer and I have never been more scared and something about your blog hit me to really stay strong and fight thank you and Keep your Fight going STRONG and we will see you soon in the stands cheering for the next big win!!!
thank you Sherry for all you are doing to bring awareness to ovarian cancer I lost my 34 year old daughter last April 1,2016 she had stage 3 but all her organs fused together and she had mass in her abdomen and they tried surgery 2 times and chemo 2 times but hers was a rare form of cancer that no chemo would work on I pray that they can find a cure for the rare forms and all ovarian cancer and other cancers soon have lost 4 people to cancer in the last 2 years and we need a cure god bless you and hope that you beat this . You are strong and a fighter I can see that .
Hi Sherry, I started following you after a NASCAR tweet about you. Little did I know 1 year later my 86 year old Mother would be diagnosed with StageIV ovarian cancer July 3rd. She’s just starting her journey with this diagnosis. One chemo treatment down! Getting ready for #2 next week. Thanks for all the information about this, it’s been helpful.
You’re helping many people.
Always inspiring very helpful
Sherry, you are a strong, beautiful woman inside and out; thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life and campaigning the things that you do. Awareness is key, and collaboratively we can conquer even the hardest challenges with as much knowledge as possible. Continue to stay strong pretty lady.