Wednesday, February 24, 2016

When someone you know has cancer

My mom was diagnosed in May of this year with cancer. I'm not going to go in to too much detail about her diagnosis on my blog, because while it affects me in an unbelievable way, it still isn't my story to share. What I can share are my own personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings I've had over the last seven months.
One of the biggest things I've dealt with is people being lost with what to say, what to do - to the family member and to the person with the diagnosis. All I have to say to you is, join the crowd. While there's nothing anyone can say to make it go away or "make it better" there are ways you can show that you care.
In my personal experiences, the best things you can do for someone who has cancer are:

Be genuine.
If you don't know what to say, that's okay! Tell them you don't know what to say. I found that when I was speaking to someone about the subject, I felt a lot less awkward after we'd established that there really was no easy way to talk about it. One of my dearest friends told me, "Kalyn, I know there's nothing I can say to make you feel better or make your mom better, but I just want you to know that I care and I'm here for you, even if you just want to cry into the phone, I'm here." Being genuine rather than giving false reassurances can go a lot further in making someone feel loved.

Be honest.
If you don't know the answers, don't try to give them. While we may think that saying "I know you're going to make it through this!" sounds encouraging, it may not be. Instead, try something more like "I know what you're going through is scary, and I can only imagine how you feel. You can share your feelings with me if you're scared." 

Offer to help in specific ways.
The support shown to my family has been absolutely tremendous, it really means more than I can put in to words. If you have the time or the means to help, but are afraid of overstepping or making a person feel inadequate, don't be! Some weeks, there aren't things that my mom needs, but some weeks there are. Someone to drive her to her appointments is a big one - and it's nice knowing that she has the help when I'm so far away from her as well. I feel that most people have a hard time asking for help with things that they previously did not need help, so saying "I will be over next week to help you wash your dishes," rather than "Can I help you with anything?" is much more specific and someone may be less likely to refuse out of kindness or embarrassment.

Don't feel like you always have to talk about cancer.
Just because someone IS sick doesn't mean they're whole life revolves around their diagnosis. While it is a big part of their life, cancer probably isn't something they want to talk about 24/7. Continue the relationship you had with them before, and if they bring it up, don't be afraid to broach the subject of cancer - but don't feel like you have to bring it up every time you see them.

Having a friend or family member diagnosed with cancer is a scary, awful thing. The most important things to remember is that they are still a person - be kind and be respectful. Take your cues from them, don't overstep your bounds, and don't totally forget about them or be scared to talk to them anymore because of their diagnosis. Remember, they HAVE cancer, they haven't BECOME cancer.
If you have any questions or need someone to talk to because of a similar situation in your life, feel free to send me an email. I don't have all the answers, but that doesn't mean we can't chat. 

25 comments:

Kayla MKOY said...

Wow! This is beautiful. It's so true! Just because someone is sick, doesn't mean that's all we can talk to them about or associate them by. It CAN be uncomfortable when you don't know what to say but it's beautiful to let them know they can lean on us. I am praying for your sweet momma!

K @ Keeping Up With K... said...

My Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer last May and there are still days that I feel like I'm living in a trance and I pray that I'll wake up and find that everything is back to 'normal'. Not many people know about her diagnosis because she is such a private person so its hard to keep up a pretense around everyone. There are times when someone is telling me something trivial about their lives and I just want to scream at them that they're problems aren't real.

Cancer sucks

Macy V said...

I cried my way through this post while nodding along These words are so true and heartfelt. It really means so much more when people are willing to understand that they don't understand. My uncle (who was also my neighbor for my entire life) passed away from cancer almost 3 years ago and it was the hardest thing I have ever went through. There was an outpouring of love from everyone and it surrounded my family like no other, that is what mattered, knowing people were just there. I'm sorry you have to go through this, and I'm praying for your mom <3

Jessica J-Marie said...

These are all great approaches when it comes to dealing with cancer. I lost both my grandma & my father to cancer. Now one of my best friends is fighting it too (although her last chemo treatment is a few days away!). There's no easy way of dealing with it.

Seersucker Sass said...

I agree wholeheartedly with this post. I don't think there's ever "good timing" with cancer, but when I was fighting my battle, I was off at college and surrounded by friends, and I feel very fortunate for that. My mobility was impaired, so I so appreciated when someone would call and ask what time they could pick me up to drive me to class in the morning or when a good time to come over to help me wash my hair would be, because I felt so helpless when I had to ask for things.

I'll be praying for you and for your momma. If you ever need someone to talk to, please don't hesitate :)

XO, SS || Seersucker Sass

Kristen @ See You In A Porridge said...

this was very helpful, thank you for sharing. i have only known 1 person really who had cancer and unfortunately it was a very short battle. it was one of my mum's friends, and i was (still am) on the other side of the world so i felt especially helpless. of course, that doesn't compare to what my mum or her friend (or her friend's family) was feeling. i don't think it is something anyone really deals with well. thinking of your mom :)

Amy @ Getz Girl on Fire said...

This was a great list of suggestions. My father had cancer and passed away 20 years ago this year. It's still so sad, but I do fondly remember all the kindness shown to us during his diagnosis and treatment. I prayer your mother does well in her treatment, and I pray for peace and comfort to her and those around her.

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