On March 26, 2018, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. To be honest, I had no idea what that meant. I had never known anyone with breast cancer and had no clue that there were different types. I didn’t feel sick yet I had test after test giving me bad news. I was told that I was lucky enough to be curable, but unlucky enough to have gotten an aggressive form of breast cancer with the highest rate of reoccurrence because there is no known target treatment yet. Triple Negative Breast Cancer is a kind of breast cancer that most often impacts younger women and if you make the mistake of googling it, you are sure that things are not going to be OK. I was 34 years old with 2 young children and a loving husband at home.
What Happened Next
Over the next few weeks, I was met with unsolicited advice everywhere that I went and countless offers to help with anything that we needed. The outpouring of support from family, friends, co-workers and even strangers made me feel equal parts awkward and appreciative. The truth is that I did not know what I needed and I certainly did not know how to ask for help. Not only that, but I also had convinced myself that I didn’t need help. I was wrong!
Treatment was brutal and although I was trying my best to pretend that I was fine, I was nowhere near fine. Treatment impacts everyone differently. I had days that I felt pretty good and days that I was physically down for the count. Emotionally, I was struggling with not being the mom or wife that I wanted to be.
Learning to Accept Help
I am lucky enough to have an amazing support system in my life, so the lower that I felt, the more the people around me rallied and eventually I learned to accept the help that they were so willing to give. I learned that everyone in your life battles with you when you are fighting cancer. Often the people that love you feel helpless watching you fight. Allowing them to help actually makes them feel more in control and can help them as much as it helps you! I wish that someone had told me this much earlier in my journey. I wish that I had been given ideas to have others help when they offered. So, I decided to make a list! My hope is that anyone starting their battle with cancer can use it as a resource and can learn, much faster than I did, how to let others help! Feel free to share with your support system...
Someone that I love has cancer, what can I do?...
Helping at home
- Send meals for the family. Between traveling to appointments and just feeling crummy, no one has time to cook. This is a great way to make sure healthy food is accessible. It also can minimize the sometimes nausea inducing smells that come with cooking at home while someone is in treatment.
- Arrange house cleaning services. Not worrying about scrubbing bathrooms or floors when you aren’t feeling well is a blessing!
- Run errands (ie: grocery shopping, picking up meds etc). Allowing the person in treatment to rest and avoid crowds is always appreciated.
Helping the caregiver
- Step up as a caregiver for a few hours to relieve their primary caretaker. Send them out to reset and recharge. The stress of being a caretaker is no joke! They deserve a little guilt free time away.
- Drive them to dr appts and provide moral support. Let’s face it, there are often multiple appointments each week and having good company with you makes everything a little more fun!
- Sit with them during chemo treatments. Chemo can be long! Great conversation, card games, and snacks can make the time move faster.
- Take their children to places that they aren’t well enough to visit. Crowded places like playgrounds, the zoo and even the mall are just not possible for most people in treatment. Knowing that their children can still go out and have fun can emotionally help someone in treatment.
More ways to help
- Personalize a chemo kit. My favorite gift was a blanket with pictures of my children on it :) Pull together a few things that make treatment more comfortable.
- Comfy clothes for Chemo is always a huge help. Whether they are receiving infusion through a PICC line or a Port-a-Cath Care+Wear makes accessible clothing for comfort and ease. For me, I was stylish in my Care+Wear Port Access Hoodie!
- Organize a Fundraiser for an organization that is helping/providing services. Helping others and paying it forward can be extremely rewarding.
- Join them for head shaving/ wig shopping. This can be extremely emotional so make sure that they are OK with a guest for this one.
- Send a funny text, meme or Card. Let them know that you are thinking about them with a quick laugh. Laughter is the best medicine, after all!
- Treat them “normally” and come to visit. Anytime they can feel like “themselves” is a good time! Schedule a visit with your friend or loved one as you would if they were healthy.
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