We all know that a new cancer diagnosis is challenging, to say the least. You are filled with anxiety, uncertainty, a sense of urgency and fear. We also realize that the rest of life doesn’t stop- kids still need to get to soccer, dinner still needs to be made, and the list goes on and on. When friends and family learn of the diagnosis, many offer to help- let me know what I can do! They mean well and really want to help, but in that moment, it can be really hard to put into words what you need. In addition, it can be very taxing to manage who helps with what and when.
I have 2 suggestions to capitalize on those helpful friends and family. Keep a notepad handy to jot down anything that would help out. The lawn needs to be mowed, I need a ride on Tuesday, my kids need homework help, I need prescriptions picked up, etc. Just keep a running list. Your needs may change over time and it is important that the helpers know another lasagna isn’t helpful as the freezer is already full.
That’s where the Help Manager comes in. Get yourself one. They are the point person for all the helpers. Their responsibilities include:
- Checking in regularly to update your “needs” list.
- Having some way to disseminate the needs to the helpers- a sign up genius, lotsahelpinghands, or similar web page.
- Make sure the list has a variety of ways to help- not everyone wants to cook a dinner! But raking the leaves, picking up groceries, or running the vacuum might be perfect for that person.
- Keep the momentum going, even when it gets “old”. Cancer isn’t a short lived problem, and for some it becomes life-long.
- Understand that the job comes with no pay and no healthcare benefits. But it does come with the awesome feeling you get when you help someone in need.
Not up for the management position? We have lots of openings for Helpers! For the helpers, there are some ground rules. These include:
- If you’re in it for a facebook post about you doing good, think again.
- Not everyone wants his or her diagnosis out in the open. Don’t say anything on social media unless you are asked to.
- Find a way to help that you are comfortable with; it’s ok to say you’re not the right person for a job, but offer to do another.
- Don’t be offended if the person is not up for a social visit when you drop off dinner/kids/groceries or whatever.
- Remember the caregiver. Sometimes they just need a break. Offer to stay with the patient while they have lunch with a friend.
- If you do visit, think before you speak. Ask them how they are doing with all that’s going on. And then listen. Don’t pry for more information than they want to offer. Don’t tell them a story about someone else’s cancer. Talk about fun times. Help them laugh a little.
- If you visit, wash your hands when you get there (or don’t be offended when you are asked to do so). If you are sick (or someone in your house is) stay home. They can’t risk getting sick on top of treatment.
- Remember for some patients (particularly those with advanced or metastatic cancers), they may need help for a long time. Stick with them.
- But most of all, thank you for being there for this friend, family member, or complete stranger. An outpouring of support means the world to them and reminds them that they are loved.
We’d like to offer you the job – I hope you’ll take it!