Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cancer Series: How Others Helped

After Nicole was diagnosed, I quickly figured out there were four types of people (in my experience) when it came to the whole cancer business. I hope that as I list these "types," you can recognize how to be a helpful type!
  1. The people who sincerely cared and were gonna be there for you. They were the people who texted me to ask how my sister was doing regularly. Who whenever they saw me asked about Nicole and really, truly listened. The people who remembered the big upcoming treatments. The people who really cared about me and my sister. I'll never forget how loving and sweet those people were!
  2. Then there were the people who cared because it was their responsibility to care. Or who clearly only asked how your sister was doing to be polite. Those people were annoying and I usually didn't want to chat about my sister with them. Don't be that person. Ever.
  3. The people who knew what was going on with my sister, but for whatever reason never or barely acknowledged it. I get it. People have their own lives and don't want to dwell on other people's problems. Unfortunately, I know I've been guilty of being that way. But you know what? Sometimes I appreciated talking to those people, because sometimes I felt like a broken record answering questions about Nicole and talking to people who didn't bring it up gave me a nice break from it!
  4. The people who wanted to help, but didn't know how. The people who I could see cared, but shied away from me because they didn't want to "bother" me more or felt unsure of how to react or help me or what to say. I understand that, too. It can be so hard to know how to help, how to not offend, how to be there without being overbearing. 
Now, I would like to share some things that I found helped me and my family the most, so that hopefully those of you reading that can better know how to help people going through hard medical trials.
  1. Just ask and listen. The people who regularly asked me how my sister was and really listened to my response...oh my gosh. I'll never forget those people. I really believe that is the best thing you can do for someone going through something hard.
  2. Act with being asked. Because sometimes, it's hard to ask for help. Every family will need different things, but here's a very small list of some things that helped us out.
    • One of my mom's sweet friends decided to put on a fundraiser for my sister. Of course, she enlisted the help of neighbors and it ended up being so well put together! It meant so much for me to show up to that fundraiser and see how much support my family had. The woman who spearheaded the event runs a very cute blog, and you can check out pictures from the fundraiser here.
    • People brought meals in without my mom having to call and ask them to.
    • talented photographer took our family pictures at no cost.
    • After my sister was in remission, another fabulous photographer insisted on taking her 2 year old pictures free of charge.
    • My parents received a few gas gift cards from neighbors because our home was about a 2 hour commute from the hospital where Nicole stayed. (I thought that was a really good idea- I never would have thought of it!)
    • After I had my baby, members of my parent's ward reached out to me. They brought me meals and an old young women leader even drove out to my house to watch my son because I needed to go to a doctor's appointment and my mom was at the hospital. I know this was partly because they loved me anyway, but I think part of it was because they knew how hard it was for my mom to try to be everywhere at once and they wanted to give her peace of mind that I was taken care of.
    • Visit the cancer patient. It meant the world to me when I heard of someone just going to sit with my sweet sister. And I know she loved the company!
  3. There were some people who really wanted to help, but were maybe a little overbearing/overzealous at times. Or wanted to help in ways that didn't help. Don't, don't, don't be offended if what you think you are doing to help someone is actually making things worse and you are asked to stop or your offers are declined. Just stop. Listen. Pray. Ask. And try to find a helpful way to help! If your heart it in the right place, you'll be able to find the right way to make a difference.

There are other ways people helped that I have not listed, but those are the ones that stand out the most! If anyone else has any ideas on how to make a difference for someone who is going through a hard time, I'd love to hear it because I know I need the advice, too!

I would also like to point out that in many cancer cases, such as my sister's, are long and drawn out. My family needed help just as much when they finally were able to bring my sister home as they did when she was first diagnosed. Nicole was very high maintenance when she came home. (She was on a feeding tube that had to be regularly refilled and that my parents had to administer tons of drugs to her through it both day and night, my parents had to hook her up to an IV, she had tons of hospital visits and in home therapists, etc.) It means a lot when people are there from the beginning to the end!

P.S. I'd like to send out a huge shout out to everyone who helped us in any way during that time. You know who you are and we love you!

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