Laura has experienced both sides (and more) of the cancer caregiving relationship. As a social worker, she spent 20 years working directly with people who were medically ill. As the daughter, sister, and wife of people with cancer, she was a care provider. As a breast cancer survivor, she was a recipient of care. As a hospital volunteer, she uses all these experiences to help others as they move through the phases of cancer treatment.
When I started writing this article, I asked Laura three questions. The first two focused on care received from friends or family members. The third question concerned care offered by professionals and hospital personnel.
How Can Family and Friends Help Loved Ones Who Are Ill?
Laura’s answer to this question continually returned to “small” gestures. “When I went for chemo treatments, I really liked it when someone came with me,” she said. “My daughter-in-law would bring a Scrabble board to the hospital, and even though I had the chemo drip in my arm, it made the time pass more quickly.”
Laura also said that letters, cards, flowers, and simply listening were always appreciated. She said that receiving books or mindless magazines was helpful, even when she was too sick to read them.
It can often be difficult for people who are ill and under treatment to care for their loved ones in the usual ways. For example, when Laura was ill, it was exhausting for her to cook meals for her family. She was fortunate to have friends who would ask if she needed groceries when they went to the store, and who would prepare food for her family. This gesture not only relieved Laura of this chore, but also made it possible for her family to focus on her, not on meal preparation.
How Can Family and Friends Help Loved Ones Who Are Ill and Far Away?
What about when you’re not nearby ? How can you hold a friend or loved one’s hand or simply read them a magazine while they float in and out of sleep if you live 3,000 miles away?
While these specific acts may not be possible, there are lots of other things you can do to help.