How to Help When Someone Has Cancer

By Rev. Marie Lucca–2015

When we hear that a friend, family member or coworker has been diagnosed with cancer, one of our first responses is, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”  Unfortunately, cancer patients can get so overwhelmed that they aren’t really sure how to ask or what to ask for!  Instead, take the initiative and do something specific.  Here is a list to help get you started:

1.   Send a card by snail mail (everyone LOVES getting mail!). Mark your calendar to remind yourself to send one every month. People get many calls and cards after their initial diagnosis, but this slows down dramatically later on.

2.   Deliver a meal. For an added surprise, just leave it in a cooler at the front door!

3.   Check in with them the next time you’re going to the drugstore to see if they need any toiletries or would like you to pick up a prescription.

4.   Set up and pay for a house cleaning service.

5.   Set up and pay for lawn mowing service.

6.   Set up and pay for a snow plow service to keep their driveway clear.

7.   Come over and rake their leaves or shovel the snow from their walkway.

8.   Send fruit or flowers.

9.   Ask for a grocery list and go shopping for them.

10. Offer a ride to chemo and/or keep them company during a treatment. Ask if you can do this on a regular basis.

11.  Send a quick e-mail or e-card that says, “Thinking of you!”  Remember to add “No need to respond” at the end of your message.

12. Offer to take them out for coffee or lunch rather than dinner. Many people with cancer are tired by the end of the day.

13. Send a small gift like assorted teas or a candle.

14. Send a gift certificate for a massage. Better yet, arrange for the masseuse to come to their home!

15. Send a good book on tape/CD for when they are not feeling well enough to read, or relaxing music.

16. Order take-out from their favorite restaurant and have it delivered.

17. Let them know you are available in case of emergencies.

18. Offer to pick up their kids at school on a regular basis or take their children to your house for a play date or sleepover so they can rest.

19. Offer to take them to a movie or bring over a rental to watch together.

20. Give an Uber or taxi service gift certificate.

21. Give a super soft blanket to take to chemotherapy treatments.

22. Give a nice robe and slippers.

23. Offer to be the “communication person.” Ask them for a list of email addresses of their family and friends and send them a weekly update so they don’t have to repeat the details again and again.

24. Email an old photograph that will make them smile.

25. Do some gardening or plant flowers in their yard.

26. Do their laundry.

27. Walk their dog or take their pet to the groomers.

28. Gift a pretty hat or scarf if they are losing their hair.

29. Come for a visit or take them on a fun outing and don’t mention their health during the time you are together.

30. Offer to manage a schedule of volunteers who can take them to their medical appointments or bring meals.

31. Send a gift certificate for a manicure/pedicure.

32. Buy a monthly parking pass for family members to visit during a prolonged hospitalization.

33. Take their car for an oil change.

34. Learn to be a good listener. Don’t always give advice or try to put a “good spin” on everything, but instead just let them share their disappointments and fears.

35. Give plenty of HUGS!