When navigating a cancer diagnosis, it's not always just the person getting the cancer treatments that is effected. Partners feel helpless, children may get scared, parents are fearful of losing their child and co-workers don't know how to react.
Be aware of what you're feeling. Don't get so absorbed by caring for someone else that you lose touch with yourself. Have someone not connected that you feel comfortable venting to. You may also experience the stages of grief, or develop depression or anxiety. Find a method of processing that helps you, whether it's journaling, therapy, whatever helps you get through your feelings.
Supporting someone battling cancer can sometimes be even harder emotionally than the person going through it. I remember seeing my mom after my diagnosis and how she went grey. She was so broken and scared of losing me. My sister became the solid rock and took on so much. Each of them had their own journey with my diagnosis and it was not easy. I definitely, 100% recommend people talking to a therapist or finding support groups. Taking time off of the caretaking and finding time for themselves is crucial. Lean on family, friends and more. Ask for help!
People constantly ask us "what can we do for the ones we love battling cancer?" We asked our Fighting Pretty community about some do's and don'ts and here is what they said:
Be sympathetic and listen. Let them reel if they need to.
When someone shares they are diagnosed with disease, albiet the "Big C," listen and let them talk, cry, get mad, and have all - the - feelings! Thank them for sharing. For most people, a cancer diagnosis is highly personal and vulnerable information. The fact they are trusting you with this is information is something to be acknowledged. They may need to process the diagnosis and next steps out loud and just get it out.
Do acknowledge whatever they're feeling: sorrow, frustration, grief and be present with them in that emotion.
Ask them how you can help. But mean it.
Do try to help in practical ways: set up a meal train, arrange for help with house cleaning, laundry, and transportation to/from appointments. Just sit and binge a show together.
Many times, people say "I'm here for you" and you never hear from them again. So if you really volunteer to help bring your friend to appointments, show up. Be there.
Treat them like the strong, beautiful, amazing woman they are, not like a cancer patient.
Provide moments of pampering like a pedicure, a silky robe, or whatever treats help them feel better during treatment. Send a Fighting Pretty Package full of inspiration and help your person connect to communities.
When asking our founder, Kara Frazier (breast cancer survivor), she said: "My best friends treated me like Kara, not a cancer patient. They still asked me to be in their weddings, they came to visit and they called just to say hi. Plus, they rallied for me before appointments, surgeries and more. Even if they lived states apart, they were always “there.” They sent me care packages full of things I loved: earrings, accessories, and inspirational items (how do you think Pretty Packages came to be!?)"
Check in on them.
Send funny memes, send a quick text or mail a postcard. Checking in on your loved ones who are the in the fight of their lives helps to keep their spirits high and feel less alone. A simple card in the mail shows you care. Popping by their house with a meal or small gift is always a beautiful gesture. You can even come empty-handed, just don't leave your friend hanging because they aren't always up for a night out on the town.
Take time for yourself.
Though your friend or family member is the one getting injections and having surgeries, but you may be the key caretaker and your life may have changed dramatically too! You will always feel like you should be doing more, or that you're selfish for taking time for yourself. Remember, if you aren’t well, you can’t do well for anyone. It will become impossible to give, if you are running on empty.
Take the time to exercise, meditate, spend time with your family and friends. If you are the primary caregiver, look into respite care to give you a break. Do whatever helps you feel refreshed and refueled. Other people will want to help, so remember you don’t have to do it all on your own. Ask others for help!
Get emotional support.
You will need a support community during this time as much as your loved one will. Bu connecting with others with similar experiences, you will find tools to navigate this time in your life. Remembe to give yourself grace and know you are doing your best during an extremely difficult time.
Be aware that the hardest time may come when your person is done with treatment. Getting "back to normal" is a tricky process, because there is a "new normal" now. So working through how to move forward will be challenging, but you can do it!
Having a support group around you to push you through, lift you through the hard times and rally with you is key.
Tell your loved one battling cancer about someone you know who died from cancer.
Please don't do this. It is a common mistake for people when they are trying to relate. This is not helpful whatsoever. Talking about death to someone newly diagnosed (or diagnosed at all) is simply the wrong thing to do. Right now is not the time to talk about your friend or aunt who passed away and had a horrible struggle with cancer. Even if you feel this will make your loved one feel better, I promise it will not.
Don't make it about you. WrtLet this person just feel their feelings and have their own experience.
Say “Oh, well at least that’s the good kind of cancer.”
Beware of toxic positivity here! Simply put: there is no good kind of cancer. Cancer can come in many shapes and forms, and though some people may go through different treatment options, not one treatment is easier than another.
Everyone diagnosed with cancer goes through an emotional roller coaster trying to understand why and what they need to do to overcome it. No one deserves cancer, so there is no rhyme or reason why some get it, and some don't. Leave it there.
I was out to lunch with a friend and she could not stop sobbing. She felt horrible, I know, but it made me so uncomforable. I was consoling her and telling her time and again, that "it's ok," "we'll get through this" when I was the one who really wasn't sure! I was so stressed with making her comfortable in the scenario that my mind was about to blow. I totally understand this can be a shock, but if you feel a big cry coming on, take a minute, go to the bathroom, wash your face and get strong for your friend. They need you!
Question their choices about treatment.
We all read articles every day about what causes cancer, what is "good" and "not good" for our bodies, and how we all "should" be living our lives.
If you love your friend or family member, support their decisions. If they want help with research into treatments or medical professionals, absolutely help, but do not make them feel more unsure about an already confusing situation. Rely on doctors, nurses and providers but do not assume everything you read in the news or on Dr. Google is what you should be relaying to your friend battling cancer.
Stop asking us to hang out.
Just because we have cancer and a million doctor's appointments, doesn't mean we don't want to go out to the movies or go for a nice dinner. Please don't stop hanging out with us. We are still funny and silly and are still human beings! Just because we lost our hair, or had surgery, doesn't mean we necessarily want to hide out in our house forever. I had a friend who literally stopped calling me once I was diagnosed. Once I was better and out of treatment, she told me she was sorry for not calling, and that she didn't know what to say. We talked, I forgave her, but told her she treated me like a cancer patient, and not like a friend. It really helped us rebuild our relationship.
Overall, as women fighting through cancer, we want to know we are not alone, we are loved and we are still us. You can help us by treating us like people, not cancer patients!
Do you have any suggestions for friends and family members? If so, email us at email@example.com.