Jump to content

Menu

How to help a friend...


Recommended Posts

I have a friend who is going through cancer treatment for a very aggressive cancer. She is not talking in these terms exactly, but it really sounds like she has a pretty bleak long term prognosis. In normal times, I would help her out by watching her young child but that's hard now. Once the weather warms, I may offer to take her outside for an afternoon once a week. They're already getting food from neighbors very regularly. Someone is doing their laundry. Any other thoughts on how to help from afar a bit? Or any resources that would be useful for her - books or the like? She's very much alone - very little family support, she and her dh have a rocky relationship which is definitely making this tougher.

  • Sad 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

How old is her young child?

Our situation was different, but one thing that was really helpful when DS was hospitalized, was people who were able to help my kids with school work.  My SIL, who was then in California, would have my kids open a Google Meet, share the screen of their iPad, and she'd help them with an assignment, or listen to them read.  She and my youngest did the Treasured Conversations curriculum that way this summer. 

Even if the kid is too young for that, having someone who could read to a preschooler online, or otherwise engage them, could be helpful.  

  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites

Someone close to me was in this situation, minus the spouse, last year (she died just before Christmas). 

Something non-practical she appreciated was having a listener who allowed her to mentally explore the very real prospect  of death without minimising it or freaking out. 

She also liked being treated normally - sharing info and chat with her that was not aggressive-cancer related. 

She appreciated quality referrals to a variety of needed practitioners, or someone to source the referrals for her. 

 

 

 

  • Like 8
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

When my friend was in the end stages of breast cancer, she told me she really appreciated that she could talk to me without having to filter her words.  For example, we did a lot of talking about death, which was something that she felt she couldn't talk about with the folks who were with her every day.  

Edited by EKS
  • Like 12
Link to post
Share on other sites

I am in a similar situation with aggressive cancer and poor prognosis, although some recent test results give hope that I may be one of the lucky few who beat it.  I have a ton of support from my husband and adult children, so I turned down my friends’ offers of meals and cleaning. 
 

I don’t have a ton of regrets or a bucket list or anything. I just worry about who will take care of my children if I die. They are close to their dad and I know he would meet their needs, but who will mother them? 
 

So when my friends ask what they can do, I tell them that I need them to spoil my kids for me. I need them to continue being the special auntie who can be confided in, the fierce auntie who always has their back, the wise auntie who gives great advice-we need them all, regardless of what happens. 
 

Cancer diagnoses and treatments are hard on the whole family, so I really appreciate what my friends are doing now to make things easier for my kids. 
 

I might send a new jigsaw puzzle for the kids to work on, if your friend is spending a lot of time in bed, she might like a cheerful new book to read to the kids when they snuggle in bed with her. 
 

It is a great idea to tell her you are always available to talk. I do appreciate the friends I know I can turn to for what I call my free therapy lessons. 
 

I’m so sorry that your friend is in this situation, and I really hope things turn out better than anyone could have hoped. 

  • Like 28
Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, Amy Gen said:

I am in a similar situation with aggressive cancer and poor prognosis, although some recent test results give hope that I may be one of the lucky few who beat it.  I have a ton of support from my husband and adult children, so I turned down my friends’ offers of meals and cleaning. 
 

I don’t have a ton of regrets or a bucket list or anything. I just worry about who will take care of my children if I die. They are close to their dad and I know he would meet their needs, but who will mother them? 
 

So when my friends ask what they can do, I tell them that I need them to spoil my kids for me. I need them to continue being the special auntie who can be confided in, the fierce auntie who always has their back, the wise auntie who gives great advice-we need them all, regardless of what happens. 
 

Cancer diagnoses and treatments are hard on the whole family, so I really appreciate what my friends are doing now to make things easier for my kids. 
 

I'm sorry about your prognosis and glad you have some positive news to give you hope.  Sending you lots of good wishes.  

My SIL died after a very long battle with cancer when my niece was just 13.  She had very close friends and a different SIL who really stepped up to care for my niece and help her get through the teen years.  My BIL also did a fantastic job with my niece.  She's 22 now and turned out great and is still very close with these women.  I know they made a big difference in doing all the things you hope your friends will do for your own children.

 

Edited by Kassia
  • Like 9
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Farrar said:

 Or any resources that would be useful for her - books or the like? 

I found it helpful to join a forum for people with my kind of cancer. I was in a group that all started chemo the same month and another group for radiation. I appreciated the opportunity to give and receive support from people who were going through the same thing. 

Edited by ddcrook
Spelling
  • Like 7
Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, ddcrook said:

found it helpful to join a forum for people with my kind of cancer. I was in a group that all started chemo the same month and another group for radiation. I appreciated the opportunity to give and receive support from people who were going through the same thing. 

I really agree with this.

My dad died from the same kind of cancer that I have, so when I was diagnosed I already had an account on that forum. I even remembered my password, which is a minor miracle. LOL. 

This made me much less afraid, because I already knew so much, and I knew exactly where to find information on new therapies and protocols and studies.

 

  • Like 7
Link to post
Share on other sites

How old is the child?  Maybe even taking her out in the snow would be something helpful?  

I think if she is alone, that she really would just want you as a friend.  Can you call more?  Would she just want someone to talk to? 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Farrar,

I know you like to read. I somehow found the best book by an amazing writer. Julie started out just keeping a blog on her experience with cancer. The blog turned into a book called The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams.

The New York Times reviewed it here.

I'm a library-person, but I actually bought Julie's book and reread portions of it fairly regularly.

I cannot tell you how good this book is. In my Top Ten Best Books Ever for sure.

Your friend is lucky to have you.

Wendy

  • Like 5
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, everyone.

Her daughter is in kindy, so that makes it harder to do the help with homework sorts of things. But maybe I'll start bringing her a little care package. They have a really good, supportive little school community.

The books suggested look perfect, but I hesitate to suggest anything that's around dying. I just... I don't feel like I understand where she is with thinking about the possibility that she won't come through this. So many people feel like discussing death will cause it. I am sort of the opposite. I'd rather plan for death and then, hey, surprise, still alive, ain't that great! But this caused a huge screaming rift for awhile with my step-mother before my father's (very fast, no one planned for it despite a very negative prognosis) death. When a palliative care consult was mentioned with my friend, it sent her into a spiral of depression. I... my mom worked in patient education attached to palliative care for many years and I don't see it as a death sentence. I see it as the people who help you get what life you can have back. But it's triggering for many. Ugh.

My mother suggested that I help her get in touch with Child Life specialists at her hospital so I'm going to see if that's possible.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Farrar said:

Thank you, everyone.

Her daughter is in kindy, so that makes it harder to do the help with homework sorts of things.

 

Kindergarten is a great age for 1:1 school work over Zoom.  I did a fair amount of 1:1 work with my kindergarten niece last spring, and the kids I teach are often on a Kindergarten level.  There are lots of great resources for early reading online.  

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

Something non-practical she appreciated was having a listener who allowed her to mentally explore the very real prospect  of death without minimising it or freaking out. 

She also liked being treated normally - sharing info and chat with her that was not aggressive-cancer related. 

 

As the spouse and caregiver of someone with stage IV cancer, ^^this.^^ On the cancer board I belong to, where almost everyone is stage IV, the above is probably what people want most -- for people to talk to them like a regular person. Listen to them if they need to work through fears and concerns.

Practically, since she's not in a good situation -- If you're up to it you might consider asking if she needs someone to come with her to doctor appointments (or listen in via speaker phone if visitors aren't being allowed). Having that second set of ears is really helpful. Also you might ask if she needs any help sorting through insurance issues (they are never, ever ending) or any other paperwork.

It's very kind of you to want to help. I'm sure she'll appreciate it if you just check in with her regularly.

  • Like 7
Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, BaseballandHockey said:

Kindergarten is a great age for 1:1 school work over Zoom.  I did a fair amount of 1:1 work with my kindergarten niece last spring, and the kids I teach are often on a Kindergarten level.  There are lots of great resources for early reading online.  

Her school is Waldorf, so I don't think she actually has homework... unless it's like, meet the fairies in your yard and bake them bread or something. I think she's incredibly lucky to have this. I thought they were crazy for continuing it (I'm not a fan of Waldorf and they did not have the money, though I think family was helping them) but it clearly has been a boon to have a school that continued in person outdoors in all weather for limited days a week during this very rough time on a number of fronts. I'm very relieved for them. I think it was one of those things that was meant to be, a way that opened.

  • Like 5
  • Haha 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Farrar said:

Her school is Waldorf, so I don't think she actually has homework... unless it's like, meet the fairies in your yard and bake them bread or something. I think she's incredibly lucky to have this. I thought they were crazy for continuing it (I'm not a fan of Waldorf and they did not have the money, though I think family was helping them) but it clearly has been a boon to have a school that continued in person outdoors in all weather for limited days a week during this very rough time on a number of fronts. I'm very relieved for them. I think it was one of those things that was meant to be, a way that opened.

I guess at K, I was thinking more of things like reading her a story, or listening to her tell a story and writing it down, or simple phonics, although the latter isn't a Waldorf thing.   Or playing tic tac toe or guessing games.  Not so much formal homework, but keeping the kid busy and engaged, so mom can get a break, and maybe working a little on early language and thinking skills.  In my experience 5 year olds like a lot of attention, so I thought that this could be a way to meet that need.  Having said that, some Waldorf parents aren't going to approve of the screen aspect.  

In person school that's relatively covid safe, has probably been a great blessing.  

I'm not meaning to keep pushing on my idea.  Just clarifying what I was thinking.  Feel free to ignore!

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

If she is Christian, a book that I have given folks in that situation that I have gotten great feedback on is "Nothing to Fear" by Larry Burkett.  I'm so glad that I read it, and that I know to read it again if I'm ever in that situation.  It's fantastic.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder about a call or a card letting her know you'd like to help in whatever way would feel supportive to her, and suggest a few things...some interesting options in this thread and you may come up with some of your own.  

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Amy Gen said:

So when my friends ask what they can do, I tell them that I need them to spoil my kids for me. I need them to continue being the special auntie who can be confided in, the fierce auntie who always has their back, the wise auntie who gives great advice-we need them all, regardless of what happens. 

Amy Gen, I'm so sad to read your post. Thank you for that perspective. And this bit is really where I may try to put my love. Her dd is a special little surprise, late in life babe who I care about a lot and have seen grow up so far. I feel pretty helpless to do much for my friend, but maybe I can bring a little joy sometimes to her daughter.

  • Like 8
Link to post
Share on other sites

If her daughter's school is still open, you can offer to provide transportation to/from school for her.

Just making it clear that you are happy to talk, or not, about anything at all, at any hour.  This is great for processing the really difficult things, and also for other situations.  At one point I called my sister late at night and said, "I need you to talk to me about something, anything, not related to all this."  She chattered on about miniature donkeys for almost an hour while I was able to get ahold of my emotions to safely make the drive home.

Gas station gift cards if she is doing lots of driving back and forth for medical treatment.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, ddcrook said:

I found it helpful to join a forum for people with my kind of cancer. I was in a group that all started chemo the same month and another group for radiation. I appreciated the opportunity to give and receive support from people who were going through the same thing. 

How do you find this sort of thing? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a rare aggressive breast cancer and currently am NED (no evidence of disease) although treatment caused other serious health issues.  During treatment, my firm and friends helped out with meals.  My one daughter who still lives in city helped us out a great deal.  She handled laundry and dry cleaners and did other chores and errands for me.  Of course, my  husband was big help.  So sorry your friend's marriage is not a source of comfort to her; that makes things tougher.  The one thing I could have used help with was housecleaning because our house cleaners quit years ago and I had never hired another one.  People offered house cleaning but I turned them down because I decided I should wait until I declined further.  I should have graciously accepted their offers. 

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Condessa said:

How do you find this sort of thing? 

For me it was easy because I had breast cancer and my nurse navigator highly recommended breastcancer.org. I was high risk for another kind of cancer and found a forum by googling "(name of cancer) forum" or "(name of cancer) community." For other less common cancers,  I'm would imagine your local cancer resource center would be able to point you in the right direction. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

@Amy Gen...I very sorry.   I'm glad your recent tests are showing positive results and hope they stay that way.  Sending you hugs.

@annandatje.....Congratulations on being NED!!! 

@ddcrook....I hope you are doing well.

 

To the OP,  your friend is lucky to have your love and support (as is her daughter).  Continuing to show up for her will mean the world to her.  Listening to her,  supporting her daughter, and sending her cards/notes (as someone else said, written notes are the best).  

One of my most frustrating things has been people calling me to support me, but never actually listening to me,    Listening, truly listening, is meaningful.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...