It’s not easy seeing a loved one or friend go through chemotherapy. It can be challenging to know how to act or what to say, which leads to many people making themselves distant and hoping that it will go away if they ignore it. Although it can be hard finding out someone you care about has cancer, we believe in facing it head-on together. This is the best thing you can do for yourself and your sick friend / loved one. We have some tips on how you can help throughout their chemotherapy journey.
When someone you know gets sick, you want to do everything in our power to make them better and help out. Sometimes this can lead to that person feeling overwhelmed. Always ask for permission before visiting, as it is vital to give your friend space to relax. Try not to get frustrated if your friend has to cancel plans, chemo can be extremely tiring, so be forgiving and flexible.
Although it is our nature to ask questions sometimes questions might not be welcomed and can cause your friend to feel uncomfortable. Ask politely if it’s okay to ask a question or give advice and make sure they know it’s okay to say no if they don’t want to answer. It’s also common for you to find something familiar to relate to their situation, which is fine if you have been in their situation, but remember everyone’s treatment is different. What worked for you might not work for them and negative stories about their situation are never helpful.
Just Be There.
The best thing you can do for your friend / loved one is just to be there for them. Let them know you are there to talk whenever they want to. Sometimes just lending an ear is all they need. Don’t avoid talking about their treatment, but don’t make it the topic of every conversation, sometimes they won’t want to talk about it and a ‘normal’ conversation might be just what they need.
Another way to be there is to offer a helping hand, do their daily shopping or give their house a quick clean. Although these tasks might seem mediocre to you, they can take up a lot of energy from someone going through chemo.
If you are a friend or a distant relative, check-in on their family. Ask their partner, children, or parents how they are, and offer your help if they need it. Long hospital appointments and the stress can be exhausting for a close relative. Offer to cook them some meals or help with child care. Simply asking how a partner, parent, or child is doing can show that you are supporting the whole family.
Create a Care Package.
Creating a care package for your friend, colleague, or loved one is a perfect way to show you care. It can be a little confusing as to what the care package should entail as everyone responds to chemo treatment differently. We’ve got the do’s and don’t when creating your care package.
- Magazines or Books – Chemotherapy sessions can be lengthy so finding a few magazines or books they can read to pass the time is a great first step to creating a care package. If they are not into reading, or they have brain fog due to treatments, there are various coloring or puzzle books as an alternative.
- Blankets and Socks – A side effect of chemo can be cold hands and feet, so a soft blanket or some fluffy socks to keep them warm is a very thoughtful addition.
- Moisturizers – Another side effect is dehydration, which leads to dry skin. A hand moisturizer and some lip balm for dry lips will not only be soothing but make your loved one feel pampered.
- Water Bottle – A pretty new reusable water bottle can also help to rehydrate your loved one. There are a variety of pattern choices, chose one that suits your friends’ personality best.
- Soft Pillow – Sitting for hours through chemo can be uncomfortable. A nice soft pillow your friend can use at this time will be much appreciated..
- Music – Downloading some music onto a portable device with some headphones can help your friend relax and take their mind away from day to day life. Don’t forget to pack a battery pack too.
- Flowers – When someone is sick, we tend to buy them some flowers to cheer them up. However, flowers and plants can carry germs, which wouldn’t affect a healthy person. But with chemo reducing your friends’ immune system significantly, it is not worth the risk of them catching the germs leading to an infection.
- Food – Nausea is a common side effect of chemo, so we think avoiding food and drink is for the best. Also, during chemo, patients often express that their tastes have changed and what they once love to eat now leaves a bad taste.
- Hair Coverings – People usually assume that when you have cancer, that means you will lose your hair. However, this is not always the case, cancer research and treatments have advanced immensely. Hair loss can still be a chemo symptom, but waiting to see if it happens before you buy anything first is probably best.
- Spa Treatments – We know that spa treatments are meant to relax you, but we recommend avoiding adding this gift to your care package. A variety of different spa treatments can bring on lymphedema in patients with or who are recovering from cancer, these treatments include but are not limited to massages, saunas, and steam rooms. Also, the skin can become very sensitive or broken after chemo, so body scrubs should also be avoided.
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Take Time For Yourself.
When finding out a loved one or friend has cancer, it is important to address your own emotions. It is perfectly okay to feel a range of emotions from sad, angry, scared, or even numb. If you are having a hard time, there are a range of people you can talk to. Remember, whatever you are feeling, try to be sensitive and empathetic to the person who’s ill. It’s okay to tell them you are upset but don’t let it overrun you leading to them having to comfort you.
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