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How can friends and family help during treatment?


Often times we don’t know what we will need or what will help while going through cancer treatment. Friends and family want to “do” something, but I found that I didn’t always know what to ask for or what I would need. In hindsight I certainly can think of what helped (and at times, what didn’t) the most, but I thought it would be good to compile a list for those newly diagnosed of items and ways in which others helped. That way they can have an answer to give when those who care for them ask “what can I do to help”. 

Physically, I found ready made food very helpful, but make sure to give some requests or you may end up with 12 lasagna’s ;)

Cooling pack and fan were also helpful with those nasty hot flashes.

Emotionally, having a peer person, someone who had gone through the experience of cancer and chemo was the biggest help.

What did you find the most helpful during your treatment?


  • Good question! I'm fortunate enough to have a wonderful husband who went above and beyond the call to help me during treatment. He seemed to be able to anticipate what I would need and quite often reminded me that it was time for a nap - and darn it all - he was usually right!!  LOL

    I found that even to get a text from a friend or relative that they were thinking about me helped. You are right, people don't always know what to do, but want to do something to help if they can.

    Books!!!  I have never read so many books in my life!  My sleep patterns were severely disrupted and I would find myself wide awake for hours in the middle of the night.  Books became my best friend in those dark hours.

    Sometimes it's hard to concentrate for any length of time, so a variety of puzzle books - or puzzles and games on the iPad helped too. My son gave me an iPad before my surgery and it continues to be a good source or amusement and distraction.

    Ginger Tea! I must have cornered the market in my area. I still drink to settle my recovering stomach.
  • One thing that I saw done, so I did it for a friend, was to pick up one of those cheap little mp3 players and just pack it full of fun, uplifting music. 
  • Jackie
    Jackie Community Champion
    edited September 2017

    I was lucky enough to have my mom’s cooking during my treatment and that could sometimes be very comforting. There was a point when my nausea became severe and I had terrible abdominal pain. After several visits to the emergency, they confirmed that I had complications and that I needed another surgery for a bowel blockage. I will always remember how terrified I was and that I was physically exhausted, but when I finally came home my mother’s freshly prepared meals helped me pull through.

    Another thing that stands out in my mind is how my dentist supported me right after my diagnosis. She could understand pretty well where I was coming from because she’s a breast cancer survivor. She sent me a beautiful handwritten card just before my first chemotherapy treatment and I’ll never forget receiving her heartfelt words of encouragement when I needed them most.  

  • @kastoyles that is wonderful! I wasn't really able to read, found it too exhausting but I did listen to many audiobooks and podcasts. What was the best read?

    @BrittMK that is such a sweet and thoughtful gift, great idea!

    @Jackie I am so sorry to hear about all of the complications, that is awful. I'm glad you had your momma and her cooking to take of you though. ❤️
  • JaneWest
    One of the most remarkable things done for me after my diagnosis was a generous gift of Skip the Dishes credits, bought with donations collected by my work colleagues. I was able to use them to feed my two teenage boys on those days when I couldn't do a thing. I also benefited greatly from friends checking in often with me via texts. I found that friends felt the need to help in a concrete way. People brought food, did laundry, grocery shopping, drove me to/from chemo, yardwork, and even did a few runs to the dump!
  • @jemgirljeri - I'm a musician so the importance of music is always front and center on my mind... I know my own playlists have helped to get me through a lot of the more challenging or 'down' times 
  • @jemgirljeri What a great topic - thanks for posting!
  • I found that family helping me with the groceries was a huge help as well as driving my husband to places as he doesn't drive and I couldn't drive for a while.  My mom would either ask for a list of what I needed or she just brought food that she knew I liked.  She would come to every chemo treatment with me and always had a meal ready for my husband's dinner as I usually slept most of my chemo days.  When I was in the hospital, my dad would pick up my husband on the way for a visit. 

    One of my mom's friends has a daughter who makes Chemo packages which contained, a funky water bottle, gum, fuzzy socks, healthy snacks, a puzzle book and a worry rock.  Of all the items, the worry rock was my favorite as I would hold it when things were getting to me and would feel better afterwards.  I still carry it in my wallet.
  • Just before the end of chemo, I was home alone one evening when I developed a high fever - 103.5 - (it turned out to be a PICC line infection)  I knew I had to get to the hospital so I got dressed and ready to drive myself when I looked at the car and saw it was covered with a couple of centimetres of snow.... so I called my neighbour to drive me.  I told him that I thought I could have driven but I just didn't have the strength to brush off the snow from the car.  For the rest of the winter my neighbours not only cleared the driveway but would sneak by and clear my car for me, even when everybody was home.  It wasn't necessarily needed, but it filled me with such gratitude I still tear up when I think of it. 
  • Flowergirl
    Friends and family may want to help you and don't know how.  While recovering from surgery or in treatment, keep a list of things that you need to do or pick up, paying bills, purchasing/delivering birthday gifts, etc....errands of all sorts. When someone asks, refer to your list and see if there is a match.  There are also many online scheduling calendars / apps available so you don't end up with 3 lasagnes (which happened, all good when you have room in the freezer!) @tigerlily, yes, I agree, such gratitude for all the help and support - kindness - everyone feels like they are helping in some way.
  • @Flowergirl is there an online scheduling tool you could recommend?
  • Hi @amyc There are 2 websites that I know of that have an online scheduling component to them as well as a mass communication vehicle that you can use to keep multiple people updated about your situation.  This can be particularly helpful during a time of surgery and/or treatment.  Here they are:

    My family actually used during the illness and recovery of a family member and it worked really well.  We did not use the scheduling component.  I will also post these in the Books, Resources and Websites discussion.  Let me know if you find them helpful.  
  • Flowergirl
    Hi @amyc and everyone... thank you .... those are great resources @Marilyn.... we have also used