Life is hard enough. Friends can make the journey so much better.

Jennifer Anand

Life is hard enough. Friends can make the journey so much better.

by Jennifer Anand April 2, 2019

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Friends can make the journey so much better. Over the last few years, I’ve had a number of good-hearted friends who knew I had cancer ask me how they can help/support other cancer peeps that have come into their lives, so I’ve compiled a list:

Gift cards

  • Restaurants- give the family a break from cooking! And the opportunity for a night out. The staff at our local gym gave my family a Subway gift card. Nothing fancy, but an incredible blessing as it gave us many healthy, tasty, and quick meals on the go.
  • Shopping- especially for the cancer kid. I did an extraordinary amount of clothes shopping. The worse I felt about how I looked, the more money I spent on things to make me look good. I know that’s not a great idea, but frankly it did help me. With the incredible advent of online shopping, there’s so much people can buy!
  • Media- you are stuck in four bland walls for an undetermined length of time. Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google- all great gift cards to allow the cancer kid an outlet through music or movies.

Dinner

Food is always helpful. A professor who was part of my string ensemble brought dinner for my family. She’s a self-proclaimed non-cook but wanted to help out. She bought some chicken strips, bottled pasta sauce and pasta, loaf of bread and pesto, and a cake. All of it was ready-made from the grocery store. But the fact that she thought about us and wanted to show her love through a meal- still one of our most fondly remembered meals. No way she’s getting a Michelin star, but she’s first rate in our hearts. Buy a frozen lasagna and some side dishes or order some pizza or buy a box of cinnamon rolls. It’s not about the fanciness, it’s about the fact that you took the time to think about and bring some food.

Housekeeping

Let’s re-circle to that low-energy thing. Pay for a housekeeper, or just go over and clean! Something as simple as running a vacuum, which you may not think twice about, can be a herculean task for someone in treatment. Also, with cancer it becomes even more important to have a clean environment, so help them out!

Games

The design team I was part of in school arranged to come to my house (since I couldn’t go anywhere). They bought me a board game and came over and played for a few hours. The security of my own house allowed me to dictate how involved I could be. And when I retired to the couch, they kept playing with my siblings!

Movies

A few clubs from the Honors College at Akron also wanted to visit. They brought a giant stack of DVDs they had checked out of the library, as well as a bag of popcorn and some movie candy boxes for an in-home movie night!

Childcare

I’m listing this from a sibling point of view. I know they often get left behind and are certainly not in the focus. Our neighbors took my siblings out to swim and dinner on a few occasions, and also had them over, even if it was as simple as baking some cake together! If your friends have kids, offer to take them out to the park, or a movie, or a museum to give them a chance to get out of the house and the cancer peep some quiet/alone time. Another option would be to watch the kids at their house- play a game or make cookies together to entertain them!

Ask

Ask how you can help them. I blew-up like a balloon from the steroids, and also felt incredibly uncomfortable from my clothes rubbing against my sensitive skin. April asked what I needed, then went to the thrift store and bought me a whole new wardrobe in way bigger sizes than I typically wore. She bought baggy, loose fitting, but still nice looking clothes for me. These clothes helped me be comfortable at the hospital, and not have to wear the hospital gowns.

Warm things

Cancer gives you low blood oxygen, which can make you very cold.

  • Hats are great to help keep bald heads warm, while also being a fashion statement. Dear April crocheted me a beautiful Tiffany blue flapper hat. I loved it!! She saw how much I wore it, and made me a second, brown hat. She put a large button on it, then crocheted flowers and bows in different colors that I could attach on and customize the hat! Having such stylish and gorgeous hats really helped boost my self-image. A coworker of my dad’s bought me one of those animal hats, because she said everyone in her daughter’s school was wearing them. I felt pretty hip and also warm in that hat!
  • Scarves- someone gifted me a large, warm, bandana style scarf. It came in handy to wrap around my bald had, but also kept me warm when I used it as a blanket.
  • Blankets. A church in Georgia sent me a gorgeous pink quilt. I took many naps underneath that blanket!
  • Socks- feet get cold.
  • Booties- hospital floors are gross. Slippers and the like are awesome, to make sure my feet don’t have to touch the gross and cold floor.
  • Hand warmers. I’m from Ohio, which can get decently cold! Combine that with chemo cold, and you’re in for a frigid day. The little hunting hand and foot warming packs are great to provide a boost of warmth to a cold cancer soul.

Visit – (check out my post on Visitors)

But not if you have a cold or don’t feel well. In that case, stay as far away as possible!

Care

My friend Leah and her brother Caleb visited me in the hospital. Unfortunately, due to crazy hospital scheduling and stuff, I ended up in an MRI for most of their visit, and then just slept for the rest of their visit. They drove an hour to see me. They were both in college, in engineering, so I know they didn’t have free time galore, if any. Leah knew me only a little bit, and Caleb barely knew me at all.

But they came. That meant the world (and still does) to me. I felt horrible for sleeping the entire visit after all the trouble they took to visit. And then- a few weeks later, Leah called to see if she could visit- again.  After the last time, I was shocked that she would still offer to make that long drive, on the chance I would sleep a second visit away! We compromised with a Skype visit. She set up her laptop in her kitchen, as she made lemon bars. I love baking, so we had a wonderful time talking as she baked!

Leah’s friendship and kindness helped me realize there is no excuse to not reaching out and being there for cancer peeps. She was a college student, with limited time and finances. Yet, she was willing to give up most of her Saturday to drive far away and spend her gas money on me- a girl she wasn’t super close with (at the time!) and had nothing to offer her back. Thank you, Leah.

There’s a Facebook post I see often. It says “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” If we all took just a few minutes a day to think of others and be kind to them, our world would be a better place.