Sadly we have all known someone, who this awful disease has effected. Like many I’m sad to say I know people who are full on fighting this, amazingly overcome it and most upsetting of all – Lost their hard fight. Something that has bothered me recently is how to help these incredible people. Is it best to not ask questions (in fear of upsetting them) or, throw my arms round them and tell them ‘I’m on call – any time – for anything”… Well I had the absolute honour to discover more when I chatted to my lovely friend Laura…
“Hi I’m Laura, and I was diagnosed with Primary Breast Cancer in Sep 2014 (ER+/PR+ Her 2 – , Stage 1A, Gr 2 and if you understand that then you’re either a medic or have had a cancer diagnosis yourself! ) I am married to Ewan and am a mum of two children and at the time Callum was 8 and Eliza was 7 and it was the start of a new term (year 3 and Year 4) we’d only been back at school two weeks when I discovered the lump, I think I hadn’t given it much thought as I was so busy with the kids during the holidays, anyway once having trotted along to the local GP etc. things seemed to move pretty quickly and I was diagnosed and cancer removed within a month..gosh its amazing to think that was 5 years ago ….they call it a a Cancervarsay!! That’s a pretty crap name in my opinion but I suppose some people gain comfort by marking the occasion and I’m certainly not going to pass any judgements on a right or wrong way about dealing with such a catastrophic event in your life such as this … for me I got and am still getting through it one tiny step at a time .I certainly reflect on what the impact of a cancer diagnosis ment to me that having lost some fellow cancer chums along the way and if cancer has taught me anything , it’s that you can’t take your health for granted!
So I was speaking to the lovely Jo at a party, and she asked me my thoughts on how best a friend or loved one can support someone going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
I think the hardest thing is not knowing what to say but please don’t ignore it…say something and certainly do not ignore them .. I remember standing at the ballet studio once and I was stood next to this lady (her husband was a cancer surgeon) I had no hair, I was wearing a very obvious cancer scarf, you know the type, I had no eyebrows and even she found it really awkward to say anything to me, so I ended up talking about my treatment to break the ice …I could see the relief that I had acknowledged the dreaded “C” word…I’m not alone and I know it’s difficult but some simple phrases like “It’s nice to see you getting out?” “How are the children coping” or Hope you’re treatment is going ok? I don’t know .. it never offended me to talk about it at all – it was like the elephant in the room and I felt everyone else just relax once the C – Word had been spoken!
My close friends and family members were superb and seemed to just know what to do but some stand out helpfulness was… a friend introduced me to a friend of hers who had gone through exactly the same diagnosis as me. She too was a young mum and the help and advice she gave me after that initial diagnosis was so fantastic (this was prior to any treatment being given ) there’s nothing like talking to someone who really know’s what is going to happen in the months ahead and the treatment takes as long as a year sometimes even two years! She told me to get lots of tissues…that really sticks in my mind..(no oncologist ever mentioned this to me btw,) she said your nose will run constantly during chemo (any cancer patient who has undergone chemo will know exactly what I’m talking about particularly as my treatment was in winter) and to be really honest, the fact that she was alive really gave me some comfort after that initial diagnosis – so basically if you do know anyone else who has already had a previous diagnosis then I would highly recommend you suggesting that your friend contacting them, or Breast Cancer Now run Somebody Like Me which matches you up with a phone consultation with a person with a similar diagnosis and of a similar age .. I’m sure other cancer charities do similar too .
Flowers are lovely and if you want to buy them, the ones in vases are very handy, I had so many that I didn’t have enough vases for them…
I absolutely loved the gift of food!! Whether it was a Ready Meal from Cook or a home-made Pasta sauce it is so welcome, I cannot stress highly enough. I actually burst into tears when a friend came over with a cool bag full of food for the freezer, she kept apologising saying she wasn’t a very good cook, but I was just so grateful – it really ment so much and I kept the meals for my chemo weeks when I could just defrost them and not had the added worry about what the kids would have to eat. A great idea if work colleagues or school friends want to do a group present for a friend with Cancer then the gift of food would be my top of the list. Scarves that aren’t slippery, for tying around your head and some skull caps etc. from places like Suburban Turban or similarIm sure there are probably many more available on the market nowadays.
Take your friend out – you spend a lot of time indoors during treatment , so a trip to the cinema , or even just a dog walk helps give them a chance to really let you know how they are feeling.
Take the kids away for the day,play date or sleepover particularly during chemo week , even when they say they’re ok, believe me they will feel shit!
Toiletries etc can be tricky as you can often develop irritations during chemotherapy and radiotherapy and quite often the less perfumed and simplest cream is best . A manicure with just normal nail polish is good, as it helps stop your nails falling out , yes another gift that chemo gives , a professional manicurist probably won’t want to do it for you whilst actively having treatment due to risk of infection but a good girlfriend could come over and paint your nails.. and if in doubt then A good BOX _SET, I was introduced to the wonderful Aiden Turner aka Poldark in “Being Human “ from a lovely girlfriend (Hot Hot Hot !!! )
I hope this has helped break the ice a little – I’m sure too many of us are touched by cancer in some way or another and let’s hope that soon they will be able to help raise the survival rates for all cancers so that no one has to die from this awful disease.”
Useful links –
Live better with – a fabulous selection of gifts for people living with cancer.