Several times a week I am offered help and told "just call me". Easier said than done, though greatly appreciated. I've pulled the following directly from a blog post I've shared on Facebook, but I've added a few personal details to make it even easier to answer those questions.
44 Ways to Make the Day of Someone With Cancer
Aug 12, 2014 | Updated Oct 12, 2014
Elana Miller, MD Psychiatrist and writer at Zen Psychiatry
When a person first gets a cancer diagnosis, they’re often so overwhelmed they have no idea how to ask for help or what to ask for — but they sure need it. If you have a friend or family member with cancer you want to help, don’t make the mistake of making a vague, questionably-sincere offer “Well, call me when you need me!” (they won’t).
Instead, make your friend’s life easier by anticipating his or her needs and giving tangible, much-needed support. Here is a list of the top favors people did for me that made my day (and made my life much easier!) after my cancer diagnosis.
1. Deliver a meal. Make sure to ask in advance if they have any dietary restrictions or are following any guidelines. Stay for a visit, or just drop off the food if they’re not up for it (a cooler left outside the front door is perfect for this). We have this all set up here: http://www.takethemameal.com/meals.php?t=DCSS0960. Another thought, especially on days I'm feeling well, join us for dinner or invite us over. We dearly miss the fellowship!
2. Deliver a Tupperware of several pre-made meals your friend can heat up as needed. Use Tupperware you don’t need returned. We were given a freezer just for this purpose❤
3. Send a quick email, text, or message saying you’re thinking of them. I love these, they keep me going! My email address is email@example.com. Text me at (541)778-7215.
4. Add “No need to respond” to the end of your message — they’ll appreciate hearing from you without feeling the need to do anything in return.❤
5. Add “Feel free to take me up on this offer whenever” when you offer help — they’ll know the offer will still be sincere whenever they need it (in a week, a month, a year).
6. Set a calendar alert reminding you to check in with a quick hello or offer of help on a regular basis.
7. Send a text the next time you’re at the grocery store and ask if they’d like you to pick anything up. This is huge even when it's just one item! Text me at (541)778-7215.
8. Send a text the next time you’re at the drugstore to see if they need any toiletries. Text me at (541)778-7215.
9. Send a housekeeper to clean up their place. Take care of the details so they just need to be there to open the door. This would be a godsend.
10. Send a text the next time you’re at the pharmacy to see if they need any prescriptions picked up. My pharmacy is at Target CVS. Text me at (541)778-7215.
11. Send a mobile masseuse for a gift massage.
12. Offer to take them out for a coffee or lunch date. ❤ These are my favorite, but I also have a friend who moved 2500 miles away and every couple of weeks she has a "coffee date" with me in the form of a $5 donation. She doesn't even like coffee, but her sweet gesture speaks volumes to my heart.
13. Offer to visit. Check that they’re feeling up for it.❤
14. Offer to take them out to a movie. If they’re too tired, come by with a rental.❤
15. Offer a ride to chemo and keep them company during the treatment. Even better, commit to giving a ride on a regular basis throughout their treatments. Even a quick 15 minute visit while I'm sitting there for 4 hours would be welcome.
16. Let them know you’re “on call” for emergencies. Mean it. Those that have made themselves available for this are on a special contact list for my family.
17. Send a flower delivery. However, make sure the person isn’t on neutropenic precautions first; fresh flowers can be an infection risk for cancer patients with weakened immune systems. Sadly, I had to give away the many wonderful flower deliveries I got right after my diagnosis. Or, consider silk flowers (no worries about causing infection, and they last longer). I am on neutropenic precautions so I can't have cut fresh flowers in my home (we have them on a shelf outside my front door) but several pretty potted plants have made it into the ground in my backyard for extended beautification. ❤
18. Order take-out and have it delivered. Ask if they have a favorite restaurant. If they seem too overwhelmed to make any decisions, just get a sense of their dietary preferences and pick out a nice meal to send. You'll find this info on our meal page: http://www.takethemameal.com/meals.php?t=DCSS0960
19. Gift a magazine or newspaper subscription.
20. Gift a good book.
21. Tell them you love and care about them. Even if they don’t have the energy to respond, your message means a lot. ❤
22. For your lady cancer friend, take her out to a nice beauty treatment. Think: manicure/pedicure, facial, makeup application, etc. It may be the first time she’s splurged on her appearance in a while.
23. Send a card. Make sure it’s legible — cancer eyes are tired eyes :-) I love these, they're like getting hugs in the mail! My mailing address is 1119 Dakota Ave, Medford, OR 97501.
24. Gift an Uber or Lyft gift certificate if you’re not available to offer a ride. I’m a huge fan of Uber.
25. If you’re a close friend or family member to the cancer patient, offer to be a “point person” where you screen and accept/decline others’ visit and help offers. Right after a diagnosis there are many who want to help and visit and call, but the person with cancer is probably extremely overwhelmed at this time and may prefer some space. If you're not sure by now if you are a close friend or family member, let's talk❤
26. Understand that a cancer patient is likely too overwhelmed to ask what they need; take the initiative by offering specifics, instead of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” We've found this to be true more often than not. We appreciate the offers but don't always have an immediate need in mind.
27. Remember to still be there a few months after the diagnosis, when it’s not so new anymore. The fanfare will have died down, but your friend will still be struggling and needing logistical and emotional help. My cancer diagnosis came in early May, surgery followed soon after in June. By July when I started chemo, this was already happening. I won't be done with chemo til after Thanksgiving.
28. Offer to be the “communication person” that updates others about your friend’s state of health; it can get difficult to have to share the details over and over. ❤
29. On that note, when you check in, don’t always ask for all the details about the current state of your friend’s health. I would love to know what's going in your life too ❤
30. Does your friend have a dog? Offer to come by and take them for a walk or to the groomers. ❤
31. Does your friend have kids? Offer to babysit, do a school pick-up, or have them over for a sleepover.
32. Say, “Give me a task.” Maybe it will be laundry, or an errand, or picking up groceries. Be in and out. No socializing needed. My sister helped me start a list of tasks that have no sense of urgency, but are specifically for those that offer and ate still a huge help.
33. Does your friend have a garden? Offer to come by and do some watering and care. Even better, commit to taking over the watering regularly. Not this year 😢
34. Text or email a silly joke or photo. Humor is so important. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Text me at (541)778-7215.
35. Offer to help your friend sift through and respond to emails; after a cancer diagnosis the number of emails can be overwhelming and important ones can get lost in the shuffle.
36. Offer to create and manage a schedule for the person: for meal deliveries, rides to chemo, visits from friends, etc. Websites like takethemameal.com and lotsahelpinghands.com can help.
37. If you can, and your friend feels comfortable accepting it, give some cash — between hospital bills and the loss of income if one can’t work, cancer can be a huge financial hit. This is huge even when it's just a $5 donation. We've set up a account with no fees to you or me at www.paypal.me/twcancerfight. This deposits into our special medical fund account at our bank where we can also deposit cash and checks.
38. Donate money to cover paid-time-off hours for the patient or close family members (some employers allow this).
39. Buy a monthly parking pass for family members when the patient has a prolonged hospitalization — hospital parking gets expensive!
40. Gift a hat, wig, or scarf if your friend will lose her hair with treatment. ❤
41. Gift a super comfy blanket. This was one of my favorite and most-used gifts (good for couch lounging or trips to chemo).❤
42. Just listen. Don’t give advice, don’t try to be cheery — just listen and let your buddy talk.❤
43. Ask what they need from you most right now... and then do it.❤
44. Cancer isn’t contagious — give your friend a hug to let them know you’re on their side.❤ I even bought a wig and a couple head coverings for those of you uncomfortable or speechless around my extreme baldness 😉 For those that aren't, I'm entertained by those that want to touch my bald head. I've never been bald before either!