I’ve been dealing with cancer since 2005. While I’ve written many emails and Facebook posts to family and friends about my health, I don’t really like to “write” about it. Many people I know say I should write a book – after all I do consider myself an authority.
I’ve been diagnosed with two different cancers. The first was uterine cancer. The second, Angiosarcoma, was caused by the radiation treatment for the first. And, just when I thought I had that sneaky Angiosarcoma beat, it had the audacity to come back three years later.
I’ve had five major surgeries and many, many procedures requiring sedation. I’ve lost count on how many MRI’s, CT scans, and ER visits I’ve had. I’ve suffered through chemotherapy and endured radiation. I’ve been declared cancer free twice and longingly wait to hear the word, “NED” (no evidence of disease). I was fortunate enough to receive immunotherapy and happy to say I received really positive results. I’m constantly amazed at what my body can endure, fight and overcome. Sometimes people forget that even though you might be a cancer survivor, you must forever deal with certain side effects – the gifts that keep on giving from so many treatments. But don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve lost too many wonderful people to this horrible disease. I consider myself very lucky.
But why am I writing today? Well, because it’s World Cancer Day. Can you believe it? We have a World Day. While many organizations are advocating for more research funding, better access to new treatments, and better early screenings, today I’m advocating for those you know with cancer. Whether it’s your mom or dad, a sibling, grandparent, spouse, child, or close friend, here are a few simple things you can do for them today or any day – simple tasks that will make them smile and maybe, just for a few minutes, forget about cancer.
1. Reach Out.
There are many ways. Whether you call, text, email, send a card or pop by to see if we want to go for a walk, it takes our mind off our worries. I know, I know. You don’t know what to say. Get over it. Just let us know you’re thinking of us. Guess what? We don’t really want to talk about cancer either. We can only answer the question, “How are you feeling,” in so many ways. But, we still appreciate that you do ask and that we are on your radar! I absolutely love getting calls and emails from old friends. It reminds me of a time before cancer when life was so simple and I could do anything. It fortifies me to continue the fight.
2. Make Us Laugh and Smile.
Even if you don’t live near your friend fighting cancer, you can still make a difference. We like to laugh and smile, so take some time to find and send us a funny card or old photo of us having a great time together. Email or text us a funny video. Who doesn’t like a good baby, cat, or puppy video? Post something silly or a funny memory on Facebook. You don’t realize the power you have to make such an impact with a simple act of kindness.
3. Ask What You Can Do.
OR even better, let us know what you CAN do. For instance, “I can bring home Mary after school.” Or, “I can take Johnny to soccer practice for you.” Most of the time we’ll probably say no thanks to your offer, but if you’re already at the grocery store and we’re low on milk, we just might take you up on it.
4. Put Your Skills to Use.
I don’t know what I would have done without some extraordinary and compassionate friends who offered to use their healing skills to help me. Amazing gifted women helped me deal with my stress and my pain through one-on-one yoga, Feldenkrais and Energy Medicine. Often, they came to my house or invited me to the comfort and privacy of their own home. It was wonderful to have someone take care of me in such a gentle way. I receive excellent care from doctors and nurses, but it’s always in a clinical setting. There is just something very calming knowing you are with friends or family in such a safe and loving environment.
We like to laugh and smile, so take some time to find and send us a funny card or old photo of us having a great time together.
5. Drop Off a Meal, Restaurant Gift Card, or Batch of Cookies.
Get a group of friends together to clean your local park, school grounds, or neighborhood streets. Pick up trash and recycle the cans, bottles, and plastic. Celebrate your accomplishments by planting some flowers and trees!
6. Chip in with Friends and Offer to Pay for a Cleaning Service.
That’s another thing that takes a back seat, but can cause some unwanted stress. Coming home to a clean house makes everyone smile.
7. Offer to Go Wig or Hat Shopping.
Or, go with your friend or loved one when she decides to shave her head before her hair falls out. If you are a stylist, offer to cut or shave your friend’s head and trim her hair as it begins to grow back. My brother and my husband went with me the first time I decided to shave my head. They both shaved their heads too. Months before I started chemotherapy, I went to my friend’s salon. I had very long hair that my three-year old used to play with every time I held her or read stories to her. I asked my friend to cut my hair short so I could get used to it. I also asked her to cut it so that I could save a ponytail for my daughter to still hold while we read at night. It was a very emotional experience and I was blessed to be in such a loving environment to have it done. That was over 14 years ago and I’m still moved by her kindness. She has helped me with my hair a number of times since.
8. Do Something Nice for the Children.
Kids deserve to be kids and when there’s cancer in the family, it changes so much. We feel so guilty when we can’t do things with them because we are sick or tired. They should be laughing and running around without a care in the world. Whether it’s a sleepover with your kids, a trip to the park, the movies, or even the bowling alley, see how you can make them smile. It will make us feel wonderful too.
9. Drop Off a Bouquet of Flowers.
They don’t have to be expensive. Pick some up on sale at the grocery store. It helps to see beautiful things each day and it’s a perk to know they are from beautiful, caring people!
In addition to knowing what to do, sometimes it’s just as important to know what NOT to do!
1. Keep Some Information to Yourself.
Please don’t tell us about everyone you know that passed away from cancer. It really doesn’t help to know that someone died within months of diagnosis. In addition, while we’re fighting the disease, we also don’t need to hear about everyone you know with cancer. Cancer is on our mind 24/7. (Tip – don’t post questions about our cancer on Facebook. Send us a private message instead!) We know cancer is awful, but right now we need every ounce of positive emotion.
We DO WANT to hear about all the cancer survivors – whether it’s for 1, 5, 10, or 20 years or more. By all means, shout that from the mountaintop!
You don’t realize the power you have to make such an impact with a simple act of kindness
2. Don't Share Everything.
We don’t need to hear about all the horrible things you’ve read about regarding the treatments we’ve chosen. We know they suck. We know the side effects are horrible, and if there were other proven options, we would choose them. And, yes, we are constantly researching and talking to medical and health professionals about our options. If you’ve heard about a new treatment, send us a link in an email.
3. Don't Believe Everything You Hear.
There are a lot of people out there trying to profit from our disease. Yes, this might include a few pharmaceutical companies, but it also includes a lot of quick fix schemes that claim to cure cancer. If they really worked, I wouldn’t be writing this article. We already feel bad, mentally and physically, that we have to do this. It’s a really hard decision. We know your heart is in the right place and are grateful you’re in our corner, but it doesn’t help our emotional stability to constantly doubt our decisions. If you really think it’s important, send the information via email. We’ll look at it and discuss it with our doctors.
4. If You're Sick, Stay at Home!
If you or your kids have a cold, don’t bring your germs to our house. Treatments can do a number on our immune system. It makes it harder for us to fight infections. So, don’t take it personally if we don’t want to give you a hug and a kiss when you’ve got the sniffles and don’t be offended if we ask you to wash your hands often.
5. Don’t Drop Off the Face of the Earth.
You don’t have to be there every minute. If you have some things going on in your life that makes getting together difficult, let us know you just need some time, but that we are in your thoughts. And, we can do the same for you. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we don’t know everything that people are going through on a day-to day-basis. Do I get disappointed when friends seem to drop off the face of the earth? Yes, but I’ve learned and try my best not to judge them. I’m wrapped up in my own world right now and I can’t know the hurdles they face every day.
6. Don't Talk about Cancer in Front of Our Kids or Relatives.
We don’t want it on their mind all the time either.
7. Please Do Your Best Not to Comment on Our Appearance.
Cancer treatment can takes its toll on how we look. We don’t really want to celebrate that we’ve lost 20 pounds when we’re having trouble eating or gained 10 pounds without snacking. We would rather eat whatever we want and enjoy life’s little pleasures.
8. Don’t Give Up on Us.
If we just don’t feel like doing anything with you now, don’t take it personally, but please keep trying. We miss going out with you too, but sometimes we just don’t have the physical or emotional energy to do it. When we feel better, we want to know that you’re still there for us.
These are just a few tips for you to help your loved ones fighting cancer. If you are ever in doubt about what to do, just remember to be kind and thoughtful. There are so many ways to show you care and when you do that, it makes us feel like anything is possible! Do you have some more tips? Share them today so everyone can feel your positive vibes!
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Dolly Duplantier is a freelance writer, editor and social media specialist. She is the mother of three children. Writing about people and organizations who make a difference is one of the best aspects of her job!
By NobleHour Special Contributor:
Contributing Writer / Blogger
Greater Chicago Area
Public Relations and Communications
Dolly Duplantier is a freelance writer, editor, and social media specialist. She is the mother of three children, one college graduate, one in college, and one in high school. Writing about people and organizations making a difference is one of the best aspects of her job!