From the moment the word was out about my cancer diagnosis, I was inundated with support from so many sources. From friends and family sending their love across the desert and oceans, to finding essential support from other survivors thanks to my truly fabulous hairdresser Tamsyn Reynolds from Hello Hair Fourways. That support from other women who have faced their own battles with cancer, and won, was unbelievably helpful before I started treatment to help me get my head around what was coming, and some of the questions to pose to my team.
Since finishing treatment in June I’ve found myself on the receiving end of various friends and colleagues reaching out to learn how to support their own loved ones in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. In the spirit of paying it forward, this is my take on some of the more useful ways you can support your loved ones in their battle with cancer:
- Ensure they have lifts to/ from hospital for treatment as they need it. Establish a lift club if you need to. And don’t just drop them at the door if they’re discussing scan or test results with their doctor – offer to attend the consult with them as an extra pair of ears to hear what their doctor has to say. When chemo muddles your cognitive abilities and/ or memory, an extra pair of ears is helpful.
- Share nutritious home cooked meals with them, focusing on foods with high nutritional value and make sure their fridge/ freezer is always stocked with easy options. There’s some great recipes and guidance in The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook.
- If they need support with childcare in the days after treatment, find a way to help out.
- If they don’t already have help, offer to help cleaning their house.
- Don’t make their cancer treatment the only thing you talk to them about. It’s ok that you still have a life while they’re going through treatment. Hearing about your life and even your challenges will give them an important break from thinking of their own situation.
- Especially if it’s a close relative of yours, recognise that while their treatment deals with the physical illness, the trauma of the diagnosis is something that both you and they should consider seeking professional support for. If you are in South Africa many medical aids will pay for trauma counselling in the aftermath of your own or a loved one’s diagnosis. It’s worth it.
- If in doubt, ask them how you can help.
Clearly this is just my ideas and by no means a one-size-fits-all answer. Hopefully it’s helpful if you are wondering how to support your loved ones. If you think I’ve missed anything please add a comment 😊