Hearing a young woman you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer can leave you feeling helpless. You may not know what to say or understand what she’s going through, but there are ways you can lend a much needed helping hand. Here are 15 ideas to help get you started.
1.) Stay in touch.
Even when you don’t know what to say, keep in touch. Send a card, drop an email or text. Just saying, “I am sorry you have to go through this, but I am thinking of you” can brighten her day. Continue reaching out even after her treatment is over as she begins her “new normal,” which is often scarier than the initial treatment phase.
2.) Keep people updated.
Keeping family and friends informed can be overwhelming, offer to take on that role. MyLifeLine.org has a free service for cancer patients, where you can easily post the latest information and loved ones can leave notes of support. CarePages is another good resource.
3.) Help get dinner on the table.
This can be something you prepare or pick-up. Be sure you ask if there are any foods to avoid. Gift cards to favorite restaurants also work. You can easily help organize meal deliveries with an online scheduler like Lotsa Helping Hands where people can sign up to bring meals. If she’s not up for visiting at meal delivery, have her place a cooler by the front door.
5.) Assist with household chores.
Get a group of friends to volunteer to help with laundry, cleaning the house or collect money to help pay for a cleaning service.
6.) Watch the kiddos.
If she has children, she might need help with childcare during treatments or just time for a nap. Take the kids off her hands for a few hours and help ease her mind.
7.) Be a Wig/Hat Shopping Partner.
If she will lose her hair from treatments, offer to go wig or hat shopping when the time comes. A friend will let you know if something looks fabulous or if you should put it back on the shelf.
9.) Provide some entertainment.
She may have a lot of down time, so help her get lost in good books or movies. Purchase an online movie membership like Netflix, so movies can easily be downloaded or shipped to her home. If she is an avid reader, buy her some books, give her a gift card to download books or order them online or check books out of the library for her.
11.) Help with writing thank you notes.
It can be hard to keep up with these, especially if treatments are brutal on the patient. So, if it she isn’t up to the task at the time, keep a log, so that she can look back through all of the kind gestures when the fog has lifted.
12.) Throw her a party.
There are many ways to have a little fun while helping her go through a hard experience. If chemotherapy will bring hair loss, she might enjoy a hat party (scarves and caps are great, too). Or throw a celebration party when she hits a big milestone (like the end of a treatment).
13.) Plan a pamper session.
An easy way to perk her up is to take her out for a pampering – a facial, manicure or pedicure. Just make sure she is at a point in treatment where there that is okay.
14.) Send a unique gift.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Maybe a photo of a favorite memory or something that will grow (like a plant or tree) so that she can see how far she has come.
15.) Do something for the primary caregiver.
Take them out for a drink, a special pampering, a ballgame or something they would enjoy. It’s a rough time for them as well!
Did you know that YSC developed tips for caregivers including organizing help and advice? It’s important that supporters take care of themselves. Check out some of these useful resources and tips to ensure you’re receiving the crucial support you need to help you in your vital role as a co-survivor and caregiver.