So, having just returned from a play called “The Eulogy of Toby Peach”, I find myself thinking about my experiences with Cancer and this blog title pops into my head. As a friend and daughter to cancer patients, I am currently swimming in remembering dates, attending appointments and making plans, so here are a few of my thoughts and experiences that may help when you are thinking whether to offer your support to someone you know is going through this.
A wise person told me 2 years ago that there will be a time we all do and say the wrong things, which I believe is true. Cancer is so emotive for people, that even with the best intentions, words can come out wrong, things are taken in the wrong way and even doing nothing can be perceived as not caring.
My first piece of advice to someone in my situation is to do something. Not say “I’m here if you need anything”. Do something. Whether its cut the hedges, bake their favourite dessert, help tick something off the bucket list, these small gestures mean so much.
A frustration I found, especially at the beginning, is people asking me how Sam is doing. Now I don’t know if its just Sam or other cancer sufferers, but she would rather be asked herself by an individual not be talked about. So my second thing to bare in mind, might not be true for everyone, is to ask the person themselves. They can then make their mind up if they want to talk about it with you.
An extension to this is, they don’t want to hear “you have enough on your plate”. It is nice to still be involved in other peoples lives and think about other things other than the next hospital appointment. This does’t mean bombard them with your problems, but still treat them the same as you would before.
Consistency is something I have found to be important when supporting someone with cancer. Consistency with the doctors you are dealing with, where possible. Consistency with the support network around the individual. Consistency with the message being given, this involves a lot of honesty. No matter how close you perceive yourself to be to someone, it is far better, in my opinion, to offer consistent support that is sustainable over time, than flooding them with attention for a month, then falling off the face of the earth. Even if its little things such as: a biweekly text message to let the person know you are thinking of them on a chemo day, a weekly Facebook message after each football game to find out how it went, just to touch base, or even the odd treat e.g. bath bombs or favorite foods, can really help the individual feel supported. Again, this all comes down to being consistent over time.
I add “…just not that” to my blog title, as I often find myself frustrated with other peoples ways of helping, however I know that the individual really appreciates any form of consistent support, so I bite my tongue sometimes as I know someone trying is better than them doing nothing at all. This is my personal issue, being protective, not wanting any more hurt, however I know that Sam appreciates all those people that send messages, make little gestures and make plans to spend time with her, so please do something.
At my age I thought I would be spending my time talking to my best friend about furthering our careers, thinking about having children and being bridesmaids at each others wedding, not making friends with the nurses at oncology, making a will or planning which songs to have played at her funeral. 2016 was the best and worst year of my life. Cancer brings these unbelievable, unexpected and unforgettable experiences to your life which has made me view life very differently. Please, if you take nothing else away from this post, please make plans to do something with someone, do something you have said you always wanted to do, call that family member/friend you haven’t spoken to in ages. You literally don’t know what is coming next, so do it now.