When your friend’s child has been diagnosed with cancer, her whole life is thrown into disarray. Nothing makes sense anymore, nothing seems fair, and life for her may end as she knows it. There are more doctor appointments than she can manage, specialists to visit, chemo calendars to keep track of, radiation appointments, surgeries, procedures, a massive list of life-saving drugs to keep track of, sleepless nights, etc. The list goes on and on. Her comfortable normal is shattered, and she needs her friends to be there for her for the long haul.
At first, people will come out of the woodwork to help and support her and her family, but as time goes by, those people will fade back into the woodwork, leaving her lonely and often afraid. Many moms are too proud to ask for help, or will be too humble to accept help in the beginning. Don’t worry about hurting her feelings by offering. She needs you to be there for her.
It is common for people to want to help their friends, but many say they just don’t know how. Some will even say they don’t want to bother their friend, so they don’t stop by or call anymore. Most likely, your mom friend NEEDS her friends to drop by unannounced. She will let you know if she isn’t ok with this. Mostly, she needs to know that people care and she isn’t alone in this journey. Not just for the first month or two, but throughout the entire treatment, which could last 3-5+ years.
Besides calling and visiting, there are many things you can do to support a mom who is taking care of her child during a life threatening illness:
- Text her frequently. Let her know that you are thinking of her. This will brighten her day and let her know that she hasn’t been forgotten. Childhood cancer is a long journey when all of her friends get to continue living their lives as normal, but hers is centered around taking care of her sick or dying child.
- Give her a small gift card either in person or through snail mail. Even $5 to her favorite store or coffee place will give her the pick me up she probably desperately craves. It shows her you care, and again that she hasn’t been forgotten. She isn’t in this journey alone.
- Offer to help her write thank you notes, especially in the beginning of her child’s illness. This can often be a daunting task for a mother who is grieving the health of her child. She often means to write notes, but then feels guilty that she hasn’t had time to get to them. Time with you, AND getting notes done will mean a lot to her.
- Set up a meal delivery system. In the beginning, families are inundated with meals, which often leads to guilt because all of the food can’t possibly be eaten. The freezer gets too full, and food may go to waste. Offer to create an online meal calendar which can be easily modified. com is the one that was set up for us. We were able to indicate allergies, foods we liked and disliked, and let people know what our favorite restaurants were. There are also options for people to purchase gift cards online and have them sent to the family. This was a huge relief for us, and we no longer had a freezer packed to the brim with frozen pasta dishes and salad.
- Take her to lunch every now and then. Chances are that she is living on hospital cafeteria food, or junk food. Remind your friend that she needs to be taken care of, too, and buy her a decent meal. Not only will she be able to eat something she likes, but she will get time away from being a caretaker. She will enjoy a bit of “me time” that she desperately needs to recharge herself.
- Get a few friends to pitch in for a house cleaner. A clean house is incredibly important when taking care of an immune compromised child, but is often the very last thing a mom has time and energy for. Knowing that her house will be thoroughly cleaned every couple of weeks will give your mom-friend peace of mind and take a bit of her stress and anxiety away.
- Sit and color with her. Many moms don’t feel comfortable leaving their sick child for very long, especially in the beginning of the illness. Find a new hobby that you can do together in her home or child’s hospital room for short bursts of time. Coloring is a great way to ease stress. Knowing she doesn’t have to look at you, and potentially see your tears, while she is coloring could lead her to confide more deeply to you. This will help ease her pain greatly, at least for a short while.