I’m excited to introduce you to my friend, Kim. We became friends through the ministry of Proverbs 31, and she’s a precious gal with a compelling story. I’m honored she’s sharing some of the things she’s learned during her battle with cancer.
Cancer is something we’ll all deal with in some form or fashion, whether its our own personal diagnosis or that of a close friend or family member. I think you’ll appreciate her practical tips.
Cancer is a Journey No One Should Walk Alone!
Did you know that almost 50% of American’s will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime? And one third of those diagnosed will die within 5 years of diagnosis?
Three years ago, these statistics meant little to me. After all, I had few cancer risk factors I was only 40 years old. Imagine my surprise when Mr. Lump decided to make my left breast his new home. After numerous tests, discussions with my medical team and many prayers, I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy (both breasts removed).
On Christmas Eve, 2008, I had an 8 hour surgery to evict Mr. Lump and rid my body of this ugly disease. Unfortunately the type of breast cancer I was diagnosed with was Triple Negative Breast Cancer. The surgery gave me a 30% chance of survival, but with chemotherapy, my survival rate increased to 70%.
I had 16 treatments of chemotherapy over five months. Chemotherapy hated me as much as I hated it, as I was admitted to the hospital on five separate occasions due to adverse reactions. After chemotherapy, I had 6 weeks of radiation. Due to complications from treatment, I had a hysterectomy in 2009. My road to recovery included challenges, but today I find myself loving the dance with Mr. NED–No evidence of disease!
Tips for walking with someone
who has been diagnosed with cancer
Offer hope through words wisely chosen, cards, emails or little gifts. It is easy to get discouraged, especially when you feel ill, have battle fatigue and are in pain.
- Simple meals that can be put in the oven were a life-saver in our home. I could concentrate on healing because my family had good food to eat.
- Snacks help too. Due to the strain of shopping trips and additional financial costs of cancer treatment, we often cut “treats” from the family grocery budget.
- Staples. We were so appreciative when a thoughtful friend delivered a big pack of toilet paper and paper towels. Providing staples like these keep the pantry stocked, which not only saves the family money but helps the family shopper.
A group of our friends came and cleaned our home every two weeks while I was going through chemotherapy. This gift was appreciated by every member of the family. (If cleaning house isn’t your thing and you can afford it give a gift certificate for housecleaning services.)
- If the individual has a blog or Caring Bridge page, visit often and comment on their updates. The comments left on my Caring Bridge page were a great source of encouragement to me, especially during the lonely and fearful times.
- A friend of mine printed inspiring scriptures on post cards. I still carry these cards with me.
- Give a “blue bag.” Put several small gifts in a bag that can be opened whenever he/she feels “blue”. The gifts can be silly or practical. A friend gave me a blue bag and I had so much fun anticipating each gift. (Yes, it did help me from feeling blue–knowing someone loved and cared about me enough to take the time to make this gift.) In addition, blue bags are a great idea for the children of the family.
- Encourage dreams. Encourage the individual to think about lost dreams and to set future goals and plans. Help him/her obtain their dream if possible. A few “dream believers” walked into my life and supported me so I could fulfill a dream of mine to attend the SheSpeaks conference in North Carolina. (A gift I will cherish forever!)
- Pray together. Some days I was too weak to pray, but I treasured the times when someone would visit and pray with me, call on the phone and pray with me, or email me a prayer written for me.
At every opportunity–celebrate! Celebrate clean scans, the half-way point of chemo, and the end of chemo! Use goofy hats or necklaces, bubbles, or confetti to mark the occasion.
Cancer treatment is really hard on the body both physically and emotionally. Some ideas for pampering:
- Pretty hat or scarf (if they lose their hair)
- Pretty and soft lounge wear
- Massage when treatment is completed
- A gift certificate for “make over” to be used a few months after treatment is completed.
- Jojoba oil is a pure and natural plant extract that makes a great skin moisturizer. (Try to avoid any scented or perfumed body products.)
When I was going through treatment, I felt as if my life was on hold, while everyone else was out having a good time. I still cherish the memories of someone taking the time to just sit with me. Time is really a precious gift you can give someone.
If the individual has a spouse or children, try to remember them. They often suffer along with their loved one.
- One night a group of friends came to our home…the guys took my husband out for supper and the gals stayed and babysat me. The evening was such a blessing to us both.
- Another friend took my 13 year old daughter for a “beauty make over.” She delighted in a day of pampering.
- If you can, give them gift cards to the movies, bowling, swimming, and fast food.
THINGS NOT TO SAY:
- Please, please, please don’t tell them about your Uncle Henry who puked his guts out when he was going through chemo. Knowing this isn’t going to help, it just increases fears.
- Please, please, please don’t tell them about so and so just dying from cancer. Death from cancer is a reality. We know that. We live that. We don’t need anyone reminding us of this possibility.
- Cancer is a gift. If you think it is gift, I can wrap it up and give it to you.
- God must really love me as He gave me this burden to carry. This goes against all theological beliefs. God loves me! Period! The previous statement makes me want to say, so He doesn’t love you as much, because you didn’t get cancer?
GOOD THINGS TO SAY:
- I love you!
- You can do this!
- I believe in you!
- You are an inspiration!
- You are beautiful!
- You are courageous!
- Can I pray with you?
- God loves you!
- God is with you every step!
- God can carry you when you are too weak to walk on your own!
- I am here!
- I am proud of you!
- Keep it up, you’re doing a great job!
- How are you? (Don’t forget to stop and listen if you ask this question.)
- I am praying for you!
If you need additional resources for supporting someone on the cancer journey, please check out HopeLivesNow! Cancer is a journey no one should walk alone!