Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Rerun: Helping People With Cancer

I know this is a popular subject with people with cancer - how and how not to help them. Some people are idiots. I can tell you story after story about ones I have met along the way.
  • You aren't going to get cancer by mentioning the word 'cancer'. Seriously? Its an ugly word but its not an obscenity that will cause someone to pass out. You can't ignore the elephant in the room. Ask how their treatment is going, how they are feeling (but not that vague, polite 'how are you today?' bullshit). 
  • Never tell them about your cousin's neighbor's dog walker's hair dresser's sister's cancer treatment. You are not a doctor. It probably wasn't the same type of cancer, and even if it was, everyone's cancer is different. You do not want someone to start wondering about their treatment plan - or to think about how stupid you just sounded.
  • No, they probably are not about to die so don't ask them 'how long do they have?'. I find that one pretty damn rude if you ask me. And people have asked me that. I probably gave them some gaping look and meant to say 'about another 50 years'.
  • Don't be shy. You aren't to get cancer by being in the same room with them, shopping for them, eating a meal together. If you want to help them, you need to go see them and talk to them. Call first and ask 'I'm going to the grocery store, can I get anything for you?' or 'can I drive your kids to school for you tomorrow or take you to a doctor appointment?' 'Can I bring you a casserole for your family to eat later this week?' If you say, how can I help, they may not be sure what to say. You can do their laundry, clean their house, mow their lawn. 
  • Be smart. Someone in cancer treatment probably has limited energy so going to the late movie, a museum where you are on your feet or a shopping spree at the mall are probably not going to work. Nor are going out for drinks or bar hopping. Or a 40 mile bike ride. Or surfing. Or mountain climbing.... I can go on. Ask them do they want to get out and do something and let them tell you what they would like to do. 
  • Be respectful of them and their time. They may or may not be feeling very well. If you are visiting them and they appear to be either trying to stay awake or not run to the bathroom, it's time for you to leave. When you arrive, ask them if they are up for a visit or just drop off what you brought and leave. I know I would try to be polite with visitors and sometimes I really just needed to sleep and not throw up.
  • Do not visit anyone who is an inpatient in a hospital unless they tell you they can. People in hospitals are usually pretty sick, have not gotten enough sleep (because you can never sleep in a hospital), and look like crap because they are in bed, or are bored to tears. Boredom welcomes visitors; pain, lack of sleep, and looking/feeling like crap hate visitors. Call first and ask what you can bring. Do not just show up at a patient's room EVER!
I think that covers most of my irritations. Yes I have cancer. No I am not going to die anytime soon. I would love it if someone would weed my garden (my husband has a problem telling weeds and plants apart). I like visitors who call first. If I get tired, I will kick you out. Thanks for asking.

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