Through our journey of my healing from breast cancer, we have gotten a front-seat view of what caretaking is all about. Not only has my husband been the best caretaker I could have ever imagined, but we've had others take care of us in huge ways. We thought we would share some things that others have done to help us, or suggestions of some things to do when you know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. These are not suggestions for cancer caretaking from MD Anderson, or from Susan G. Komen, these are simply homemade suggestions from Josh and Aly Taylor. We wanted to make that clear. We have been BEYOND blessed to have had amazing caretaking.
1.) Pray specifically for your loved one. A great idea is to write out a prayer. **Send it in a text, a card, or make a craft. **I know for me, prayer is the thing that gave me the most hope.
2.) Offer to do **specific things**. So often people ask, "What can I do?" or "Let me know if I can do anything." Truthfully, I really didn't know of what to tell others to do. The ones who helped the most asked, "What can I bring you for supper?," or "I dropped you some juice at the front door," or "Please send me your grocery list and I will drop off your groceries on your front porch."
3.) Be **positive.** So many people with good intentions want to talk with one diagnosed with cancer, by telling a story of someone they knew with cancer. A parent, aunt, relative, friend...Please be wise. Cancer patients are so fragile (I still am) and do not need to hear of someone who has died or had a terrible time with cancer. Tell a story of someone who know who was miraculously healed or has been a survivor for 20+ years. I know intentions are always good, but cancer patients need to hear positive stories.
4.) Make a list of scriptures on healing and send it to your loved one. Commit to pray those verses over your loved one. Make it **personal** and put their name in the verses. As I've shared before, I had 2 groups of people who did this for me and it was better than any book anyone gave me.
5.) Find out what someone **enjoys** and send them a goody basket. Check with a relative about their dietary needs and send them a basket with their favorite foods, magazines, games etc... Include a note about praying for joy as they enjoy their goody basket.
6.) **Expect** healing. When you talk to someone with cancer, and you know they have a check-up, say, "Can't wait to hear the good news," or "This will all be behind you so soon," or "What an incredible testimony you will have." It was comments like these that would bring me to tears so often. These words gave me hope, because so many were scared to say them. Don't be scared. Believe what you say and say it in faith. It may increase the one who needs faith desperately.
7.) Serve your loved one in the easiest way possible **for them**. I call this "the porch concept." Leave things on the porch! I know sometimes for me, I may not have wanted someone to bring me food because I was embarrassed of the way I looked. What helped me were those who said, "I dropped off food at your front door," or someone who asked me to leave my laundry on my front porch and they would wash and bring it back to me. Ask your loved one if they would leave their key somewhere easy for you to find so you can have someone clean their house. Whatever the way you serve...make it as easy on your loved one and possible and be specific!
8.) Be **generous**. If it was not for the generosity of others, I truly do not know where Josh and I would be financially. At this point, we've been to Houston over 60 times..gas, food, medical bills, house bills, hotel rooms, having to take off work...if cancer wasn't overwhelming enough, financially it could have been horrible. But, people were generous. So many times, we would receive a check that would literally drop us to our knees. We have a few incredible people that continue to give. It is not the money. It is what the money represents- Peace. Sending money is an incredible gift. Send a note with it and commit to pray.
9.) Find out their **needs**! I guess this goes back to being specific. We had someone pay for our rental car, our gas, make me juice, make me healthy meals, people that send us whole foods gift cards, a plane ride to Houston. The list goes on and on. These generous people found out what we needed, and simply met the need. If they would have just asked how they could have helped, we probably would have just said, "We will let you know." (which would have probably turned into nothing)
10.) Send books on **healing**. Books were a great gift, as I spent much of my time in a car, and wanting to read rather than watch T.V. and was too weak to really do anything else. Some books were great. Others were not so great. People would get me a book on cancer, and even if the title looked hopeful and good, there were still statistics and parts in the book that would scare me. I found the most helpful books for me were about God's healing; not advances in cancer treatment. Once again- this is just me- your loved one may be different.
11.) Remember that every cancer situation is **different**. Many people shared their stories with us, and so many times it was very helpful; however, sometimes it was wasn't/isn't. Especially people who have a similar to identical diagnosis- many will assume that how one reacts to treatment, emotionally and physically will be the same, and this just isn't the case most of the time. Guard your words, and when you question whether or not to say it, it's probably best not to:)
12.) Use **wisdom** in talking with spouse/family members. I know my husband, mom, and in-laws said that people flooded them with information, and this was good. I know it was overwhelming for them at times too. I know they would say that they would much rather people tell them information than me, but, it is important to know that family members are overwhelmed as well. I would suggest treating the family as the patient! One of the best things that a friend told us was that Josh has had breast cancer. I remember thinking, "What?" He has had it in his own way, and my family has too. It's good to remember that when talking with family members.
13.) Spouse, family members, and friends need to act as **safeguards**. I have had to ask my husband and family multiple times to safeguard me from information. Most of the time, they were wanting to tell me a story of someone who was diagnosed, or some article to read, or a program to watch...which you would think would be good, right? Well, these things said on a day I am struggling can flood me with fearful emotions. So, I have had to be honest with my family and have told them that I need them to be a filter for me. I know this is so hard for my family, but that is just where I find myself most of the time.
14.) **Mail**, email, or text scripture to your loved one. We had a lady who sent me a card in the mail every day, yes EVERY DAY! All it had was a scripture and her name. Every day I looked forward to getting her piece of mail. It reminded me that someone was praying for me every day. Such a simple gesture that I rank as one of the top cancer caretaking things done for me.
15.) Remember that after one is deemed cancer-free, **they are still struggling!** As most of you know, I have struggled way more after cancer than I did before or during. I think people see me with my hair, and going about "normal" life and think I must be in the best spirits having overcome what I did. Am I thankful?! Oh my, yes! But, even functioning is hard at times. All of the things I listed above, I still need NOW. Remember that when your loved one is cancer-free!