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Here's My Honest Answer To The Question, "What Do You Need?"

March 18th, 2016 |
Caregivers

by elifortcoop | Fighter: Hodgkin's Lymphoma    Connect


People fighting cancer, both patients and caregivers, need your help. Generally asking them what they need is nice, but offering a specific solution is even nicer. If you’re unsure of ideas to offer your time and help, read more below.

Cancer treatment can take a lot out of you, physically and mentally. A good caregiver is, of course, an essential part of helping you through treatment. But let’s be honest, even the most patient and caring of caregivers can get a little worn out with treatment, too. That’s when you need to rely on others to help both you and your caregiver.

One of the most common ways people start the conversation is by asking the question, “What do you need?”. Though this question is a very fair one to ask, I couldn’t help but think the response, “What don’t I need?” to myself. In these cases, the best thing other people did was TELL us what they were going to do for us, rather than ASK us what we needed. It is difficult to ask for help for the patient and caregiver, and puts a lot of pressure on us. I always appreciated when someone would just tell me what they were going to do for me.

The following are a few of the things friends and family did for me and my caregiver throughout almost five years of treatment:

    Food. Of course, this is always at the top of any list of how people offer help, plus it’s one of the easier ways of reaching out. Chemo and radiation left me with little appetite, but that didn’t mean food didn’t matter. My husband also still needed to eat, so I made sure when people offered to bring food it was something both my husband and myself would enjoy.

    Gift cards. Friends would send us Visa gift cards, gift cards to restaurants, and even Target. We had to spend nine months away from home for me to do radiation and then a full bone marrow transplant. We were more than 400 miles from home. As you can imagine, it can be expensive to be that far from home for that long. These really helped us offset some of the costs.

    Taking care of our home. Throughout the years, I had to leave home twice for treatment. Both times, family and friends stepped in to look after our house. They picked up our mail and drove by the house to make sure everything looked o.k. They even did projects around the house that we would never have gotten around to. They made sure we had a clean house and a refrigerator stocked with fresh food.

    Surprise milkshakes. During my first chemo regimen, there wasn’t much that sounded good to me, but a chocolate milkshake would usually hit the spot. Some of the best days were when friends called to say they were on their way to my house with a milkshake—and I didn’t even have to ask! A small but thoughtful gesture like that can really make someone feel loads better.

    Lending a sympathetic ear. Sometimes I just needed someone to talk to, someone who would listen without judgment, about my fears—of having cancer, about my treatment, side effects, the future.

There are so many ways to be there for a family member or friend going through cancer; this is just a brief list of the best things people did for me. Hopefully it can get you thinking on all the things, big or small, you can do for others.

What other specific things did others do that helped you during treatment? Share in the comments below!

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Elizabeth Fortune is a freelance writer and public relations specialist in Arkansas. She is here today because a generous stranger donated bone marrow to save her life. Elizabeth and her husband started the Lymphomaniac Society to provide respite trips to cancer survivors.

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