CANCER. It's a complete sucker punch. And when it happens to someone we love, IT. SUCKS.
We're desperate to help, but feel helpless.
I've had cancer. I've supported both of my parents through it. My strategy? BE A BRA. Lift up. Provide support. Give comfort.
Cancer is a roller coaster of emotions. Some days feel calm. Others feel out of control. Surgery and treatment can create mismatched expectations and discomfort. The unknown is scary and overwhelming for BOTH of you, in completely different ways. It's personal. So get personal.
Your 12-step program to being a "bra":
- Call/text. I can’t tell you how many people dropped out of my life (family included) because they just didn’t know what to say. Set reminders in your phone to reach out. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know what to say, but I love you and I’m here" to begin dialogue.
- Use snail mail. Cards and care packages are powerful. Not good with words? Get a card that is expressive. My favorite cards are empathy cards made by a Survivor.
- Send a Healing Basket. There are tons of side effects associated with cancer and treatment, from dry mouth and cracked lips, to hair and weight loss (and lots in between). Educate yourself on specific treatments and tailor your package. Pinterest has oodles of ideas! When in doubt, gift cards work - two of my faves are Netflix (hello, crappy hospital TV) and non hospital food (yum!).
- Bring a meal. Err-body's gotta eat. Right after surgery or chemo, or in last weeks of radiation, there's EXHAUSTION. Take Them A Meal is a shareable online sign up system for meal delivery that helps you coordinate meals and share the signup list. Sidenote: Taste buds usually change, so ask what tastes good.
- Babysit. Paying a babysitter adds up quickly. Cancer patients are constantly in/out for tests and bloodwork, so this can be an undue hardship. Providing childcare can also allow a husband and wife to attend a doctor’s appointment together.
- Make a CD. This is especially fab for daily drives to radiation, which are a drag. Include some empowering songs and a few that bring back good memories/inspire car dancing.
- Send pics. It's hard when you're far away from your loved one during this process. I used a simple DVD program to sync my Dad's favorite digital photos to music, to comfort him in those solitary, nerve-wracking moments before/after surgery. For my Mom, I opted to make a photo book with signs my kids made for each day of her radiation.
- *If you’re a praying person, hold their hands and pray for them out loud. It might sound hokey, but there is comfort in knowing someone is praying for you.
- Support self care. Cancer can often bring depression and anxiety. If you notice this in your loved one, gently support self care. There’s a stigma to seeking therapy, but it's 100% NORMAL for cancer patients. Local support groups are incredibly helpful.
- Tag along. Go with them to the doctor, or offer to drive and wait in the waiting room. You not only provide moral support, but also a set of ears - doctor visits can be incredibly overwhelming and draining. Even things like picking out a wig can seem intimidating when alone.
- Celebrate. Good bloodwork? Clear scan? No mo' chemo? In the world of a cancer patient, this is GIGANTIC. Remember that their life revolves around blood counts and scans. MAKE IT IMPORTANT TO YOU, TOO.
- Get them out. It's easy to get stuck at home when in the trenches with cancer. Because exhaustion. Germs. Depression. Taking your loved one out, even for drive-thru Starbucks or ice cream, can be incredibly good for lifting spirits.
Remember that if you’re gonna support a loved one, do what they need. They’re juggling a landslide of emotions and might be suppressing emotions to protect their kids or spouse. Frankly, having to juggle your emotions puts an undue burden on them. If you’re having trouble dealing (which is totally normal, BTW), there’s no shame in seeing a therapist, so that you can be a fabulously supportive, comfortable, uplifting bra.
Thriving With Cancer (Women Only)