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November 1, 2012

5 Practical Helps for Those on the Cancer Journey

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, here are some ways to make a positive difference in the lives of those diagnosed.

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Battling cancer can sometimes seem like an insurmountable challenge. Fortunately, when illness strikes, neighbors, friends, and church groups are often willing to lend a helping hand.

According to cancer survivor and author Lynn Eib, some ways of reaching out are better than others. Here are five compassionate suggestions from her most recent book, 50 Days of Hope: Daily inspiration for your journey through cancer.

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?

1. If you take a meal, make it all-inclusive and easy to serve/clean up. Put all the food and drink in disposable containers and include colorful, disposable plates, cups and utensils—I like to take wrapping ribbon and bundle each person’s utensils in a napkin and tie them together. Add a small, paper cup bouquet of flowers—either from your yard or loose ones from the grocery—for an extra touch of beauty. Disclaimer: Double-check before you stir up a big pan of lasagna. When I had chemo for colon cancer back in 1990, our freezer was full of this Italian staple!

2. Give the patient a week’s worth of encouragement. Select seven cards—include funny, inspirational and thoughtful ones—and write on the envelope the day the card is to be opened. You don’t have to add anything to the card’s sentiment, but can include motivational quotes or scripture verses. Put all the cards in one large envelope and mail/give to the patient.

3. Let the patient take the lead on whether they feel like talking about their diagnosis/prognosis or would rather avoid such discussions. I often ask our patients whether they’d like me to listen to “cancer complaints,” or if they’d prefer a “cancer-free day.” Most patients crave some sense of normalcy, even if things never truly will be “normal” again.

4. If you know the patient would appreciate prayer, offer to pray with them in person or even on the phone. Ask if there’s a specific day or time of day they would appreciate prayer—perhaps while trying to fall asleep at night, or during their treatment time. When people used to tell me “I’m praying for you,” I wanted to ask, “Are you really? Because some days I am just hanging on by the thin threads of those prayers!”

5. Offer to assist the patient in a “vacation from cancer.” You plan the vacation based on the patient’s stamina, interests, and your finances. It can be as simple as a leisurely day in the park with a picnic or as fancy as a gift certificate for an area Bed & Breakfast (free babysitting included, if needed!) Whether you participate personally or the patient enjoys the day with a family member, all parties agree to take a “vacation” from cancer talk.



Lynn Eib is a longtime cancer survivor, oncology patient advocate, and author of several books, including the newly released 50 Days of Hope: Daily inspiration for your journey through cancer. Visit her website at www.cancerpatientadvocate.com.

Related Tags: cancer, caregiving, caring, challenges, compassion, generosity, hospitality, outreach

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