My Mini Guide to Support
I want to talk about something that is really important, more important than people likely think it is; support for someone going through cancer. Its a really hard topic because support looks different for everyone. So keep in mind that this is my perspective and I want to offer advice based on my experiences. This post is in no way intended to offend anyone, I know everyone offers support in the way they know best. So please remember that as you read this.
A cancer diagnosis is an incredibly overwhelming and terrifying thing to go through. There are so many emotions that you feel and they change constantly. I remember shortly after being diagnosis having moments of just feeling like it was so surreal and there was just no way this was happening to me. I had one day where I was doing laundry and I just started laughing hysterically because all I could think was "just because I have cancer doesn't mean I don't have to still do laundry". My point is that its a lot to process. I also know how it feels to be someone who is dealing with a loved one being diagnosed as I went through this with my mom. For the record I had a lot of trouble with that too and I never knew how to support her. I'm sure she would agree that I was a little annoying because I just kept buying her gifts. I had no idea how best to be there for her so I hope that this post helps anyone who is in that situation (I wish this wasn't necessary and I hope you never have to be in either of these positions).
One of the first things that happens once people find out about your diagnosis is they send messages. That is a great start, you don't have to say a lot. Even just "I'm so sorry. I'm here if you need to talk. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.". The thing to keep in mind is that ever person in my life was contacting me. Some people would send articles or information on breast cancer or studies. I understand why, everyone wants to help and wants to find a way to help me through this. The thing is when everyone is sending articles and information while I'm still trying to process such a huge diagnosis it is very overwhelming to receive so much information. To be honest I never read or opened one single thing that was sent to me. Its not that I didn't appreciate it but it was so much at once and I couldn't handle reading about and seeing cancer everywhere I looked. My advice here after my experience is that if you are someone who wants to do research and provide anything you find to someone with a diagnosis, simply ask them if they would like for you to send any information you find. They may say yes and want all that is out there or they may be like me and say no, they aren't ready for that yet.
Another important point to make with support is follow through. If you aren't going to be able to follow through on your offers then don't make them. I don't expect everyone to drop their lives and go buy my groceries. I also don't need everyone to offer to do things for me. I still want to be treated as normal as possible so something simple like ask to go for lunch is more than enough. Try to remember that the 10 days or so after chemo I basically do nothing but feel terrible and stay confined to my house. Once I'm feeling better I want to do things so come visit or ask to hang out. I'm finding a lot of people have forgotten that I'm still Rae. I'm not just cancer, it does not define every day of my life now. I am still me and like to be treated that way. So don't hide your problems from me and ask for my support in any way you would have if it wasn't for my cancer.
Okay, so those are the main points I wanted to make but here are some quick dos and don'ts.
- Ask me how I am doing or how treatment is going - its okay to ask! It also opens the door for me if there is something I need to talk to someone about because I have a hard time bringing it up sometimes. It is also kind of awkward when people just dance around it.
- Tell me about a survivor you know!
- Invite me to things! I'm sure people have just not invited me because they assume I won't be feeling good which may be true but I also may be up to it so just being invited out is still nice.
- Share my blog! Did you guys know that I was contacted by someone I didn't even know, she's a young mom also going through breast cancer. We now talk all the time and I've been able to offer her advice on chemo. We have been great support for each other. This is why I started the blog. So sharing it is huge!
- Laugh at the jokes I make about cancer. Making jokes lightens it for me so don't feel awkward by them and yes I do use cancer to get my friends and family to do things for me. If you have the card, play it. Right?
- Tell me about someone you know who died from cancer. This is a big one, these are not the stories I need to hear. I'm more than aware of this reality but it doesn't help keep me strong.
- Complain about your bad hair day...need I say more.
- Share things on social media about "someone you know is fighting cancer and only your real friends will share this post". These are annoying and I've seen some with inaccurate information that is really discouraging. I find these posts are more about how "no one will share this" and less about actual support.
- Ask my prognosis...to anyone this is a terribly insensitive question. Wish it went without saying.
Support looks different for everyone and like I said at the beginning of this, this is my perspective and how I prefer to be supported. Thank you to everyone who has been there for us. I will say one of the most helpful things is that my best friends started a Facebook group for all who want to support and help us. This has been so great as it is somewhere to send anyone who asks what they can do without me trying to think of ways they can help. I never know what to say when people ask what they can do so through this group that stress has been lifted off of me. Whenever there is anything we need we just post to the group and anyone who can help with that does. It is truly so great and makes things so much easier.
So there you have it my mini guide to support for a cancer fighter (because we're fighters not patients or sick people). The simplest thing to say is just be there. Show the fuck up. However that is, even just a text every now and then is great. Remember I'm bored out of my mind for a good 10 days straight and feeling like crap the entire time and soon I will have surgery and not be able to do much for a few weeks. Just having people to talk to and hear about your lives or just your day is great and welcomed.
Tomorrow is my last chemo, I'm like this odd kind of excited for it. I'm just so happy it is about to be over, well this part at least. There is still a long hard road ahead but the worst of it will be over. Clara will be one step closer to fully getting her mommy back and for that I am so excited. Mommy isn't sick, she's fighting and she's halfway there.