How to Help Someone With Cancer

I’ve written before offering tips for caring for a child with cancer, but as I’ve had more friends and acquaintances receive a cancer diagnosis, I thought I would broaden the suggestions a bit. These do not apply just to cancer patients and their families–many of them can be helpful for those facing chronic, life-threatening, and autoimmune illnesses, as well.

Ways to Help a Loved One Dealing with a Cancer Diagnosis

  1. Send in a referral to the Cancer Card Exchange for the patient. CCX provides gift cards to help families dealing with cancer pay for everyday expenses.
    • If you have spare gift cards laying around, please consider donating those to CCX!
  2. Help with meals. Either cook for the family, organize a food tree, or buy the family prepared meals that are delivered. (A meal service or something like Omaha Steaks may be an option.)
  3. Organize a wish list for any items the family may need and communicate that to friends/family.
  4. Offer to provide transportation to/from appointments.
  5. Help with house cleaning, or subsidize a maid service.
  6. Offer to go grocery shopping for the family.
  7. Organize/schedule cards, gifts, and visits–especially after the initial shock wears off.
  8. Set up a CaringBridge or Lotsa Helping Hands website for the family to communicate more easily.
  9. Offer to research cancer information and provide the ‘Cliff’s Notes’ to the family.
  10. Look up resources (i.e. support groups or charities that provide care packages or financial aid) for the family and help organize or send in applications for services.
  11. Register to be a bone marrow donor or donate to Be The Match. This may not help directly, but the patient will love the thought.
  12. Donate blood and/or plasma. This may not benefit them directly, but definitely helps the general supply.
  13. Organize a drive (with family, at work, church, etc.) for blood donations and/or the bone marrow donor registry.
  14. Offer to provide or help subsidize childcare or pet sitting services.
  15. Organize a fundraiser for the family; even those with the best of insurance plans have additional expenses that they didn’t plan for. Give Forward, Go Fund Me, and PlumFund are options.
  16. Call or visit! The patient might want to talk or might just want someone’s company to watch a movie or enjoy the scenery. This will be especially helpful as time goes by and support dwindles.
  17. Organize a card tree or send individual cards or other fun mail.

Care Package Ideas

  • Gift cards: Amazon, Target, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, grocery stores
  • Games/puzzles, DVDs, or other time passers
  • Books–for the caregiver and/or for the patient–both cancer-related and entertainment titles
  • Lotion (unscented) for dry skin (i.e. Eucerin, Aquafor)
  • Snack foods or quick foods such as protein bars, trail mix, peanut butter, powdered drink mixes, even a favorite candy (be sure to ask about dietary limitations)
  • Hand sanitizer, particularly the pocket-sized ones and pump bottles
  • Antibacterial hand soap refills
  • Sunscreen
  • Soft blankets and sheets
  • Soft pajamas and sweats
  • Pillows (a “boyfriend pillow” is great for those who have to get lumbar punctures or spinal taps!)
  • Breakfast-in-bed tray
  • Herbal tea (particularly those that help with nausea, sleeplessness, and sore throat)
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Heating pad
  • Cooling headache pads
  • Hats: soft, fuzzy ones for those who are losing their hair, or wide-brimmed for sun protection

Raise Awareness and Funds for the Cause

Here are a few suggestions for organizations that support cancer patients in a variety of ways:

This is obviously not an exhaustive list but hopefully it will get your ideas flowing more freely. So often when a loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, we don’t know what to do or say. What we feel comfortable offering can vary widely, but I’m certain that there is always something we can do to help!

Readers, please feel free to add to the list in the comments!

Get tips and suggestions for ways to help a loved one after a cancer diagnosis.

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