If one of your friends or family members has cancer, you may be wondering the best way to support him or her. Even though you want to help, it can be hard to know what to say or do. Everyone reacts differently to the news that they have cancer. Therefore, some people will see offers of help as 'fussing' and will find them hard to accept, while others will really appreciate any help and support being offered. What is important, is to ensure that you take the lead from the poorly person, and accept that they may act and behave differently now. However, there are likely to be many times when help and support is needed. Based on my own experience and feedback from customers, here is a list of simple suggestions of ways you could help:
1. Create a rota between close friends and family members to take your loved one to hospital and treatment appointments. It is so important to know that someone is going to be with you to support you. A rota will ensure everyone knows where and when they are needed and will mean one less thing for them to worry about.
2. Cook a meal, ideally one that can be frozen for a later date so your loved one does not feel obligated to eat it there and then. Maybe ask what they might like to eat as taste buds can be affected especially during chemotherapy. What might have been his or her favourite meal before, may now no longer be.
3. Send frequent messages of love and support, reminding them that you are there for them. Make sure you tell them they don't need to respond. Sometimes having to respond to text and missed phone calls feel overwhelming and exhausting.
4. Offer to look after the children or walk the dog so that lives of others living in the house have some sense of normality. This also allows them to rest too.
5. Listen rather than talk. They may just need someone to listen to them. It is important that during this emotional time, that if someone wishes to share their worries and fears they can do so.
6. Organise some special days for when they feel well enough to get out and about. It might be just a visit to a local coffee shop or a short walk in a local beauty spot. Make sure they know that they can return home as and when, it is important not to overdo it.
7. Purchase a gift subscription either individually, or as a group of friends or relatives. This allows those who not living so close to feel like they are contributing and getting involved.
8. Sometimes just having company even sitting in silence, or watching TV can be enough. Try not to make everything into a big occasion or event.
9. Tend to the garden or water plants. Set a day and time to do so without having to disturb them. Knowing that the garden is being looked after is enough.
10. There will be good and bad days. It is important that you are flexible with your help and support. If dates and times need to be changed then so be it. Cancer, treatment and side effects can be unpredictable.
11. Practical gifts that show you have put thought and attention into what they need. If your loved one says their hands are sore, they are feeling nauseous or are struggling to sleep or rest then find a gift that will help alleviate unwanted side effects. It shows you have listened and gone the extra mile to make them feel more comfortable.
12. Offer to take notes during appointments. Trying to take in information when you are feeling emotional and physically unwell can be extremely hard. Having some notes to refer back to at a later date can help clarify things.
13. Honesty is the best policy. You would have been honest before they got ill, and it is important to be honest now. They are still the same person. If you don't know what to say or how to react tell them you are finding it hard. They will appreciate you being straight with them.
14. It's human nature for people to rush in to help at the beginning of a crisis, but having cancer is a long road. Whilst you may no longer be needed to cook meals, or help with lifts, it is still important that you still check in with phone calls, notes or cards so your loved one knows they are still being supported.
15. Cancer is not a contagious disease, so physically show your love and support with a hug and a kiss. Often it is the little things that mean the most.
Anikka Burton is the founder of www.notanotherbunchofflowers.com and was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33.