One thing is for sure - the support from friends and family, online and offline, has been critical to us both! So much compassion out there!
Both receiving and giving support becomes a challenge for everyone involved. There were times when both of us could not handle any offers of support; we turned the phones off and just hid from the world immediately after hearing bad news. For friends and family, there were times when our cancer was too much to deal with, too uncomfortable. That's all healthy!
So, what are some suggestions for family and friends wanting to be helpful and supportive? Based on our experience, I do have some simple advice:
- Get rid of any stereotypes you have about cancer patients and what they need (meals, cleaning, money, a driver to the hospital, etc.) ..instead, just ask "Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make this easier."
- Offer positive thoughts or prayers, depending on both yours and their religious or nonreligious view of life. That's powerful. This is validated by summaries of recent medical research into the measurable impact of prayer/positive thoughts on cancer.
- Try to let go of feelings of helplessness, guilt or fear you might experience when you hear about someone's cancer diagnosis or treatment failure. Doesn't do anyone any good.
- Listen. A cancer patient at some point needs to talk about it. Be ready to listen.
That's it. If you are reading this, it is because you must care. That makes you qualified.
Again, huge thanks to the amazing people that have and continue to support Heidi and myself!