1. Check in regularly and without expectations.
It sounds simple, but I think the best thing you can do to support a loved one is to be there for them. Be a listening ear. Be the person that checks in regularly. Be the one who remembers their treatment dates, scans, or doctor’s visits. A simple phone call or text message to let someone know you are thinking of them and that you care can mean so much.
But try to keep your expectations of a response at bay. When you are first diagnosed with cancer, it’s overwhelming. Not just because of the diagnosis, but because everyone around you is reaching out to you. Your high school best friend that you haven’t talked to in 10 years, your aunts and uncles, your college roommate. They all want to let you know they heard the news and are there for you. But it is a lot to digest a cancer diagnosis, and repeatedly talking to others about it can cause a lot of anxiety.
For me it became too much, and I shut down. I stopped answering my phone and responding to people who would reach out. It was easier to shut out the world and just focus on myself.
Know that your loved one has a lot on their plate and may not have the energy to talk on the phone or answer a text. Don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back. And don’t let that keep you from reaching out and letting them know you care.
2. Drop off what you know they love.
Two days after I was diagnosed, I had 10 flower deliveries in one day. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends and family. Flowers, coloring books, blankets, baked goods. The list went on and on. Things to keep me busy during chemo, hats for when I lost my hair, and vitamins or supplement to help me stay strong.
While all of these gifts were incredibly nice, what was really great was when someone brought me a gift they knew I loved. My favorite coffee from the local shop, the chicken noodle soup I always devour, or the lotion I wear every single day.
Gifts are absolutely unnecessary, but if you want to purchase something, try to buy them something they’ve specifically asked for or that will make their life a little easier. Can you pick up dinner or a gift card from their favorite restaurant? Instead of buying them something you think they will need, try to think of something they already love. It will lift their spirits, and you know it wont go to waste.