A Cancer Diagnosis
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, the bottom can and does drop out from under us. And in our grief and shock we often stumble coming out of the gate... wanting to be there and be supportive of their cancer journey, we so often just mess up royally. We say the wrong thing, over-compensate and trip over ourselves trying to make it ok, or sometimes just disappear all together... We know. Been there. Done that.
It's so hard to know what to say, what to do, or how to help.
We found there are a few simple things that meant a lot to mom when she was on her cancer journey and thus was born our Help-A-Girl-Out Checklist ;-)
Ways We Can All Help Out
1. Take a minute
Breath in, absorb the news and lift a prayer... for your loved one, for yourself. Take this minute before you do anything... a cancer diagnosis is devastating and is a shock for everyone.
2. Educate yourself
Spend another minute or two (or five) and learn about pancreatic cancer. There is so much misinformation out there. Knowing the basics can help us be more understanding as we reach out and lend a hand to our loved one.
3. Avoid Comparisons and Stories
Before you head out to help, determine not to share even one story about your best friend's girlfriends' uncle who survived stage 4 cancer by meditating on his head for 10 hours a day... you know what I mean. Our loved one's cancer is personal and will impact them uniquely. Your gift to them will just to be there, to listen, to support... to love.
4. Ask What They Need and Be Flexible
It can be hard to reach out in the midst of the heaviness of a cancer diagnosis. So... call, ask if there is anything they need and then offer specifics... could I bring dinner tomorrow night? Would you like me to drive you to your next appointment, sit with you during chemo, pick up groceries?? If lunch dates were your thing before cancer, then suggest a lunch out and offer to pick up and drive... Offering a helping hand might mean just being there with them. Sometimes a shoulder to lean on is just that, nothing specific, just having you there is enough.
5. Be patient
Our loved ones may just need time alone. Continue to offer, but be sensitive when they need a bit of solitude. When an offer of help is declined don't take it personally... lift them up in prayer, send a thoughtful card and call back later... don't give up and don't disappear.
6. Be understanding
Cancer treatments can take a lot out of a person. Be understanding when your loved one needs to cancel plans or unexpectedly needs to leave early from time together. The cancer journey is grueling and often imposes limitations that add to the agony. Your understanding will be balm to their hurting soul.
7. Choose to Listen
Determine to be a safe place for your loved one to share. Avoid the urge to offer advice and simply listen without judgement. It is a gift. When we can sit with them and listen to their heart we honor the courage it takes for them to open up.
8. Affirm What They're Saying
We all want and need to be heard and have our feelings validated. Cancer patients even more so. Our loved ones need to be heard, to know we will not minimize their pain or their struggle. Determine not to use phrases like "it's going to be ok," or "Don't worry, just calm down," or "Just have faith, you are so strong." While we may believe these things to be true, they are not helpful to the one who has just been given a cancer diagnosis.
What Every Cancer Patient Wants You to Know
For a more intimate look at what every cancer patient wants you to know, check out our 31 Day Series, A Letter from the Battlefield...
In the series, we share so much of mom's heart and what helped the most. Truly her friends and family were the silver lining in the cancer storm cloud.
You can be the gift... your loved one needs your presence and will be forever blessed by your sweet offering!