Yesterday I went to get Mort the port flushed.
I have to keep him in for a year in case I need a “touch up” of chemo. Shudder. So I have to go in every 6 weeks to get him cleaned out with a saline flush so he doesn’t get clogged. It was weird going back.
I had a new nurse and the way she complimented my hair, I am pretty sure she thought it was a wig. She said “That looks great.” I just smiled and said “thanks.”
It was strange to be there not getting chemo. I don’t have negative associations with the place because chemo doesn’t make you feel bad for a day or so. I have more negative associations looking at my couch. But it’s still weird to go back, seeing so many sick people. It filled me with gratitude. And I prayed for them to have hope, to be positive, that people are taking good care of them.
You don’t see too many people alone at chemo, and if they are alone, they are probably just getting their port flushed like me. It’s lovely to see the caregivers supporting the patients. Cancer patients fight the battle but it requires many armor bearers. I had/have some great armor bearers. If you’re reading this and you know someone with cancer, please think about how you can serve them. I know it’s awkward. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do. I’ve shared some tips before on this, but here’s a list of ideas:
Send a card with a heartfelt message – don’t just sign your name: say something authentic and personal
Send flowers – they really do help
Send an Edible Arrangement or Shari’s Berries
Make a meal and drop it off – ask a family member for suggestions
Give a gift of pampering: a massage or spa treatment, a super soft blanket, some fancy lotion or high quality bubble bath
Here is a cool site that makes it easy: http://www.thepamperedpatient.com
Restaurant or grocery store gift cards
Take over a case of bottled water or if they are avoiding plastic ( Here’s an article on the dangers of plastic: http://www.m.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cookware-plastics-shoppers-guide-to-food-safety ) a nice glass water bottle – cancer patients need to hydrate. Take some flavonoid rich lemons and limes too! http://www.livestrong.com/article/244298-what-are-the-benefits-of-citrus-fruits/#page=1
If they have kids, take their kids somewhere fun
If they have a dog, take it for a walk
Clean their cat litter box
Take their primary caregiver to a rock concert (or the symphony…whatever.)
Pray for the cancer patient and tell them regularly what you’re praying
Show up and wash their car or cut their grass or rake their leaves
Buy them a fabulous season-appropriate scarf
Give them a great pair of slippers
Get them a great book
Finally, if you’re a close friend and they just got diagnosed, offer to coordinate meals, visits, etc. Be the point person so they don’t have to ask for help. Organize the help for them. Seriously, this is a huge help.
A couple of quick “don’ts.”
Don’t say “let me know if you need anything.” Cancer patients aren’t going to ask you to go pick up their dry cleaning (hey, don’t get your clothes dry cleaned – it’s toxic.) http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/drycleaning.cfm They need you to offer specifically what you’re willing to do and sometimes you need to just go ahead and do it. I know, it’s hard/awkward to just do stuff, but I’ve talked to many cancer fighters and so far, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about people saying “let me know if you need something.” And zero complaints about some pushy person who kept making freshly baked bread or watering their plants or sending beautiful flower bouquets. Seriously JUST DO IT.
Don’t only focus on the patient when you visit/talk. They want to hear about your life, too.
Try not to complain too much, though. When you’re facing death as a possible outcome, your tolerance for bitching about car trouble or a nosy neighbor is minimal.
Drop by, but not unannounced – give a sister (or brother) a heads up so she can put on her “visiting jammies.”
As someone in remission, my hope is that I can support cancer patients, particularly the recently diagnosed. One of the ways I can do that is by getting this information out to the general population. My goal is that no one can say they don’t know what to do to help someone with cancer. So, share a link to this page if you found it helpful.