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I went candle pin bowling this weekend and was trying to figure out different strategies to help myself win. I am extremely competitive, probably more than I should be, and I kept wondering how to get those 10 pins down with such a tiny bowling ball. At times, it seemed unattainable.
Cancer is kind of the same way. To get a strike, you have to knock down a whole bunch of pins along the way. It’s difficult with a tiny ball, so why not get bigger ammo?
I know there are a lot of people who want to help patients and families battling cancer, but just don’t know how. So, I’ve compiled a list of five things that helped my mom beat her cancer. With a bigger army fighting, those pins will fall faster, and a strike doesn’t seem so impossible.
1. Ask questions. Cancer is surrounded by such a stigma that many people don’t think patients want to talk about it. In my family, the only way we survived was by asking about things we didn’t know. What does a port do? Why does Mom have surgical drains? What does chemo feel like? Talking about these things makes it even more real, which is why a lot of people avoid it, but it also stirs conversation and kicks the giant elephant out of the room. People need to know what is going on. Patients need someone to talk to outside of the doctor’s office who isn’t afraid to really know how they are feeling.
2. Offer to make dinner one night. Life doesn’t stop when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer. Bills still have to get paid, kids have to go to school, and dishes have to be washed. One of the best things people did for my family was make us dinner. One family in particular would bring us meals three and four times a week. It was such a treat to see their smiling faces at our door, and to know that someone was there for anything and everything.
3. Be a chauffeur. To chemo treatments, to school, to the grocery store, even out for ice cream. Being trapped at home all day gets monotonous, and a little sunshine and a familiar face makes everything better.
4. Don’t pretend cancer doesn’t exist. This kind of goes along with asking questions. A lot of people don’t know how to act when they are faced with a friend or family who has been diagnosed with cancer. Don’t brush it under the rug. Acknowledge it, face it, and don’t treat anyone any differently- they are still the same person, just with a few bad cells inside.
5. Be there. I had no idea what I was supposed to do when my mom was going through chemotherapy. I was thirteen, was terrible at making sandwiches, couldn’t drive, and was unable to get the child proof cap off of medicine bottles. The only thing I knew to do was sit with Mom, even when she was asleep, and be by her side. It’s easy to say, “Oh she’s resting, I don’t want to bother her,” when you don’t know what to do. But no one likes being alone, especially when they are sick. Just go sit with them, read to them, talk about the cute boy at school. Just be there.