Not so long ago, the question about what a friend could do for a loved one who had been diagnosed with cancer came up on a forum where I participate. I thought some of the responses from patients might help those who want to do something, but don’t have any ideas as to what to do.
A Bag Full of Goodies
When I was first diagnosed, my officemates took up a collection and bought a big bag that they filled up. They included beeswax lip balm, ginger candy (great for nausea), tissues, water, a small blanket, a journal and pen, a word search puzzle book, fuzzy socks, lotion, hand sanitizer and more. Additionally, they gave me a couple of pairs of comfortable lounging pajamas that I could wear when I got my treatments.
I still use the bag when I go out of town and often when I go for my treatments. I never use it that I do not think of my friends and feel grateful for them.
Another person posted that her sister gave her a diaper bag filled with many of the same kinds of things. Using a diaper bag is a great idea – they are usually pretty light-weight, have lots of nooks and crannies, can often be washed, and are roomy.
Gas Cards, Parking Passes, Restaurant Gift Cards
Cancer treatments often zap a person’s finances. It is sometimes difficult to afford the gasoline just to get to life-saving treatments. Several people on the forum mentioned how much they appreciated getting gas cards.
Similarly, many hospitals and clinics are located where you have to pay to park. At my facility, you have to use valet parking. It is $5 plus tip every time you go. If treatments are frequent, this adds up in a hurry. Giving the gift of parking passes is a huge relief for over-burdened pocketbooks.
Thinking about cooking after being in treatment all day is the last thing most cancer patients want to do. Having a gift card to a local restaurant would be a lovely way to end a long day.
Never Underestimate the Value of a Card or Phone Call
Unfortunately, cancer is often a lonely disease. Too often, it seems like people think it is contagious or something. So, just when you need it most, your support falls by the wayside. I think part of it is “out of sight out of mind” more than an overt action by friends and acquaintances but the result is the same.
It is uplifting to get an unexpected “I’m Thinking of You” card in the mail. Even better is a brief phone call, just to check in. If you’re like me and not much of a telephoner, a text message is also a way to get in touch. The point is not so much the vehicle used as it is to let your friend know you haven’t forgotten them.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer and was suffering from the terrible fatigue that accompanies many chemo treatments, I began sitting in my backyard photographing birds. I would then post the pictures on Facebook. One day, I received an unexpected package. A friend had sent me a bird identification book. It was such a thoughtful gift and meant the world to me.
I will end with a list of more ideas that might be just perfect to show your friend or loved one how much you care:
- Give a ride to treatment, the grocery store, or the park.
- Bring over a meal. Even if the patient is too sick to eat, the family still needs nourishment.
- A soft hat for those who have lost their hair may be appreciated.
- A cozy blanket will surround the patient with love and warmth.
- If they have a port, a port pillow can be a lifesaver.
- Clean their house or mow their yard or do their laundry. These chores don’t go away just because someone has cancer.
What kinds of things have you gotten that meant the world to you? Sometimes, the smallest things, given from the heart, mean the most.