If you have offered to visit, bring meals or help in any other way, please be respectful of their time, their emotional state and their needs. Having cancer is like being on a boat and having no navigation tools and no sense of where you will be minute to minute or day to day. One minute I was laughing and teasing about my cancer, the next sobbing about the overwhelming idea that my mortality was in imminent danger. This is totally normal. Emotions, fears & your cancer reality will be ever changing. I never knew what the next day would bring on my journey.
On several occasions while I was going through chemo, I made plans with people to come visit me. I always told them that we would check in the morning of the visit and if I wasn’t feeling well we would have to postpone. I was a little over ambitious with my visitors one particular day, but I was feeling so good, I wanted to squeeze in as many supportive, loving friends as I could. It actually was a disaster, as all three small groups of people showed up at the same time and I was overwhelmed trying to talk to 6 people at one time. From that moment on, I decided that I was not going to try and make anyone else happy on this cancer journey at my own expense. I was very specific in communicating my needs and If I needed a nap, I was going to take one and plans with friends or family would have to change to accommodate me.
Here are some practical Do’s & Dont’s when offering to help someone with cancer...
Do: If you have made an offer to help, follow up. Make definite plans with exact times.
Don’t: Rely on them to call you to make plans. They are overwhelmed and probably not sleeping, so take the initiative.
Do: If you said you would be there at noon, be there at noon. Do not show up late!
Don’t: Arrive 2 hours late with excuses. If you can’t do it, don’t plan it.
Do: Understand that some days it is difficult to get up, get dressed and wait for visitors.
Don’t: Make someone with cancer wait for you. There is so much waiting already!
Do: Be very flexible! You might need to change the plan if they are not feeling well or up for visitors after all.
Don’t: Ever show up sick or fighting off a cold or flu. If you have been around someone in the last 48 hours that has been sick, let them know and cancel your visit.
Do: When you have cancer, you have good and bad days and you need to honor that.
Don’t: Bring your little kids along unless you have already gotten approval that it is ok.
Do: Ask them if they have any issues with perfume or scented items.
Don’t: Show up covered in scented items. Many cancer patients have heightened senses when going through cancer treatment. Scented items made me extremely nauseous.
Do: Ask if they have any diet restrictions or things they cannot eat.
Don’t: Assume they will be able to eat something without asking; taste buds can be off and somethings look and smell terrible that didn’t before.
Do: Offer to pick up, drop off & pay for take-out food of their choice. It is such a treat to have a favorite meal delivered.
Don’t: If bringing a meal, limit your visit to let them enjoy the meal & visit another day.