I’m always being asked, “what should I do for a cancer patient?? My answer is always the same: “It doesn’t matter what you do, but please do something!” Every kindness is never forgotten. Many friendships are lost because cancer patients are ignored during treatment. Being 3.5 years out from Chemotherapy, I have never forgotten one kindness extended to me. Watching my sister go through Chemotherapy, it becomes even more real. And I learn from my sister that many cancer patients are stubborn! When I ask my sister, “What can I do to help you?” her usual response is, “Nothing, I’m trying to act normal.” Knowing firsthand, there is no normal during chemotherapy, I ask her: “How is that working for you?” Finally, I get truth from her when she answers, “Not very well.”
If a friend or loved one is going through chemotherapy, trust me, they can use some help and lots of it! Here is my Top 25 list of ways to help:
1) Offer to take them to Chemotherapy and give them dates that you are available to do so.
2) Drop off muffins at their front door — most cancer patients can manage to eat a muffin. Lower fat content is best.
3) Money is always an issue with 98% of cancer patients. Cancer is so expensive no matter what insurance they may have. A grocery store or drug store gift card, no matter what the denomination, would be extremely helpful.
4) Send greeting cards and send more than one. One of my dear friends sent me a card every week for one year!!
5) Flowers are always welcome but ask the florist to send the least fragrant kind. Some cancer patients are not able to be around fresh flowers, so if in doubt, ask a family member before sending.
6) Mow their grass.
7) Drop a small gift at their front door. Often the cancer patient is just not up for visitors. But a small gift will bring much hope. I found many a gift just sitting at my front door! What joy it brought me!
8) Offer to weed their garden or water their flowers during warmer months. My cousin and her husband came and planted my outside flowers when I was too sick to do so. Their kindness still brings tears to my eyes.
9) Offer to pick up groceries for them. Going to the grocery store is one of the most challenging things during chemotherapy. A dear friend of mine called me every week to see if I needed anything.
10) If they have children, offer to watch the kids, offer to take the kids to school, or pick them up for school events. This is so helpful for moms going through chemotherapy especially on their worst days. Moms going through chemo are the women I most admire!
11) Drop off soup or a casserole for the family — if you are dropping off food for the patient, be sure to ask what they are able to eat.
13) Pedicures and manicures are not allowed during chemotherapy because of the risk of infection. If it is a close female friend, offer to paint her toenails or fingernails.
14) Offer to clean their house for 2 hours. Set a time limit because staying too long will exhaust the patient. Cleaning is on the bottom of the list of things cancer patients are able to do. Offering to sweep for them, dust for them, or change their bed clothes would be much appreciated!!
15) Do their laundry.
16) If they have a cat, change their cat litter for them. Chemotherapy patients are not supposed to change cat litter because of germs! This is something I do for my sister on a regular basis which she greatly appreciates and so does her cat!
17) Many agencies offer services or food or money to cancer patients, but the cancer patient does not have the energy to pursue this. Do it for them, but be sure to ask their permission!!
18) Send a card to their spouse or significant other to show they are not alone. The cancer patient will so much appreciate your support of their caregiver.
19) If the cancer patient needs constant care, offer to sit with the cancer patient to give the caregiver a break.
20) Offer to fill their gas tank or wash their car!
21) Tie balloons at their front door to cheer them up! I will never forget my aunt tied a “Congratulations” balloon at my front door on my last day of chemo! It still brings me joy to think of it!
22) Send them a list of things you are able to do for them with your telephone number – let them know you are really serious about helping them.
23) Ask them if you can research something for them – often older patients who don’t access the internet, don’t know things that will help them feel better during chemo.
24) Take out their garbage, especially if they live alone. I finally got my sister to admit this was extremely hard for her to have the energy to dump her wastebaskets and haul her garbage can and recyclable bin to the street for garbage pickup.
25) Ask if they are up for a 30 minute visit. Do not stay too long. It is very tiring for the cancer patient, but a short visit helps lift the spirits!