Cancer stinks, no doubt about it. The reality is that all of us will experience some impact from this awful disease; if it’s not us or our family, it’s someone we know or know of. The closer it is, the deeper the impact. Once you’ve been through it or watched it, you’ll never be the same. Your heart will ache when you hear the word. However, there is always a way to give and feel HOPE. You may need it yourself or you may need to share it. The fact is, the ups and downs of the ‘cancer road’ is smoother when people feel supported.
However, receiving can be hard. Pride and dignity can put on a brave front, but everyone yearns to feel and be supported. I get it. My family has experience; with both sad outcomes and good ones. My Father-in-Law fought cancer for 6 years and my Mother-in-Law for 12 months, before they lost their battles. However, we’ve had other family and friends beat it. Most recently, I had two friends diagnosed with breast cancer within a month of each other; thankfully, their prognosis looks good but, they have a long road ahead of them. Through these experiences, we often had to talk these people into letting us help them. They never wanted to impose on others, but I saw the gratitude well up inside them when support, of all kinds, was given. The gestures, big or small, all helped beyond words.
I know there are tons of suggestions on how to support people with cancer. After seeing support coordinated through Food Tidings for years and having some very authentic conversations with people I deeply respect, I wanted to share some recent take-aways. So, whether it’s October “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” or any other month, we want to make sure you have some meaningful, tangible ways to support others, make it easier for them to “receive” and GIVE HOPE.
That is the essence of Food Tidings – to give ‘comfort & joy’; and hope.
Let’s make it a HOPE STORY, more than a cancer story.
10 Ways to Share Hope:
Take a Little Time: Just Be There. The ‘more the merrier’, is especially true when you’re going through something that’s not so merry. Chemo or radiation visits are one of those things. Yes, just “sit” there. Simple. No pressure. The smiling face of a friend and even the smallest chit-chat can provide a welcomed distraction to the anxiety and physical discomfort. They can do it alone, but it’s a huge gift if you can spare 1 hr to join them. Be courteous and read their ques; if they don’t seem up to talking much, that’s ok – just hold their hand or sit nearby. You are helping more than you know. They’ll remember the company over the treatment – a priceless gift. If you can’t be there in person, send a text, card or note letting them know you are there in spirit.
Tiding Tip: Ask Multiple Times
It’s common for people to refuse help, at first. Be sure to ask 2-3 different times to help get past any humble hesitation to accept assistance and/or to allow them time to hone in on what will be the most helpful. It may take them awhile to sort out their needs, so be sure to keep checking in and (gently) asking multiple times.
Meaningful Meals: Give nourishment and encouragement, in one! Providing a meal not only impacts the person fighting cancer, but the whole family. A simple dinner is always enough, don’t worry about being a chef! A few fun ideas that easily ‘fancy it up’ in a meaningful way: add a personal note or kid’s drawing, fix a ‘favorite’ dish of theirs or pick a dinner theme like ‘Mexican fiesta!’ to make it a dinner-party at home. They are more likely to remember the gesture, than what you actually cooked – so, take the pressure off. Of course, creating a Food Tidings schedule to coordinate meals is convenient and helps organize meal delivery for the family; easily giving instructions and details to meet the family’s needs. Rally the troops and give others the opportunity to help with meals, it’s a win-win-win.
Tiding Tip: Rally Near & Far
Quickly rally many people, near and far, with a Food Tidings Schedule. With options to make food, send food, have local restaurant food delivered (where available) or give money to pool toward expenses, everyone can lend a hand in a way that fits their time and budget, while meeting the needs of the family.
Grocery Gratitude: This gift gives food, convenience and time – a true trifecta of help that is sure to have them bursting with gratitude! For someone going through chemo or radiation – it’s hard enough thinking about a grocery list…imagine trying to find the energy to actually stop at the store, lift legs that feel like 100 lb weights and fight nausea as you make your way through the grocery store. Then, the mere task of loading & unloading the grocery bags can zap you of energy for hours. Be a hero and provide some basic groceries or ask for their list, to pick up. There are so many options to make it a simple, but extremely useful gesture – send your driving teenager (great life & serving experience), order ahead for pick up or have the groceries delivered straight to their door.
Tiding Tip: Groceries Made Easy
Schedule Grocery Delivery from a Food Tidings schedule, it really can be that easy.
Practical Please: Gifts that have a useful purpose are ‘multitaskers’ at its finest – practical and generous. However, don’t be afraid to ASK if they have something already. That’s the key. It’s true that chemo places are so cold. However, people often get a bag of essentials on their first day as part of the treatment. Multiples of the same thing can quickly turn to “waste”. Blankets and socks are really nice, but they probably don’t need 20 of them. Be practical and make a quick call or send a text with a list of a few different items and see what would be the most useful. They’ll appreciate it now and later, as you’ll be saving them from having to deal with all the “extras” that added up in the hall closet. This is not to say, that “fun” gifts are not appreciated or useful (laughter is always good for the soul!)…just another perspective to consider.
Comfort for Days: Jammies and lounge clothing are always a hit, especially right after a surgery. Having a new, comfy something to lounge in immediately brightens the mood and brings a smile to the face. You can’t go wrong with ‘soft and comfy’. By far, this is ranked as a favorite gift! Not sure about sizing? Discreetly ask a significant other or give them a gift card to a store with a note of what it’s intended for. Give them the directive to go on a “PJ or Loungewear Treasure Hunt” for themselves, otherwise they’ll often end up getting something for someone else in their family. Moms, especially, can be that way; so, give them the freedom to treat themselves.
HappyHousehold Help: Don’t we all wish we had a cleaning-fairy? This is especially true when you don’t feel good. Helping someone pick up the house, doing a quick dusting, assisting with some laundry or hiring a housekeeper is a huge gift of happiness…on all fronts. You are either helping the person who is in charge of “the house” still accomplish their “job” even when they can’t (boosting hope & fighting discouragement) or giving a caregiver a welcomed reprieve from additional “work” and giving precious moments of rest. Don’t have the time or money yourself? A few friends or small group can pitch in and gift 3-6 months of house cleaning service to cover a treatment period. This little thing can take an unbelievable amount of stress off a person and family.
Tiding Tip: House Cleaning
Some families may be bashful about the state of affairs at their house. Let’s face it, something has to give, right? Assure them you won’t “judge” before you come to help (and actually, don’t judge) – OR skip any awkwardness and enlist a professional who can be a ‘neutral person’ to come in, clean up and leave without it being weird. Food Tidings can assist in coordinating House Cleaning Services, an easy gift to add to a Schedule or to pitch in for.
Flexible Funds: Not new, but still worth mentioning. Restaurant, Gas, Grocery and other gift cards are always appreciated. Patients often have to travel a distance to treatments and doctor offices. Being able to fill up the tank without financial tension or have a family member or friend use a gift card to get something to eat for the patient/group is SO useful! Cancer can have a financial impact on all families, and is certainly a financial burden for most. Having gift cards to fall back on is huge. It’s like Christmas in October, or whatever time of year it is! Gifting flexible funds for any of the basic needs is an easy go-to that you can trust will be put to good use.
Delightful Distraction: For the readers, give them an escape or happy distraction from what they are going through. Not cancer books; they can buy or research those on their own. Give “fun” or “funny” books. Magazines, of any kind! Word Search or coloring books can give them something to do. Uplifting books, such as devotionals, can be a gift that keeps giving; even after their treatment. One recommendation, “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way” By Lysa Terkeurst, came with big accolades from a good friend of mine in the midst of a breast cancer battle. (Disclaimer: We don’t get any marketing commission, just sharing a heart-felt recommendation.) Again, asking what they are interested in is always useful (and/or include a gift receipt). Giving coloring books to someone that doesn’t color is wasting your money and not hitting the mark, even though it’s well intended. A quick question or text to them, or someone close, will help make sure you get the best value for your efforts.
Funds to Fight: At the risk of talking too much “money”, let’s face the reality. Even with the best health insurance, medical co-pays, the patients’ portion of expenses, and tons of associated costs add up very quickly for families. Nobody wants to ask for financial help and it can be very difficult to discuss. However, what a gift it would be to have help with even just one medical bill. For some, there’s a point along the way when the well-intended “gifts” they receive start to look like “wasted dollar signs”. No one wants to be or seem ungrateful, but if they had the money for all of the gifts being donated they would gladly make the trade for the financial assistance and peace of mind. If only a family could easily and discreetly trade in unneeded or duplicate gifts for the money they were worth, that would be a game changer. Until then, reducing the ‘waste’ and giving them money to help where they need it most would be a welcomed gift, whether it’s asked for or not. It may not feel very ‘personal’ to you, but giving cold-hard cash could be the thing that reduces anxiety and helps their body to fight and heal without extra stress.
Tiding Tip: Action Speaks Louder than Words
BE AN ORGANIZER. It really is a simple job, taking only moments of your time, but is one of the biggest impacts you can have. Organizers are the biggest advocates for Recipients. Not only are they truly the ‘heart’ of Food Tidings, but the hands, feet and a caring ‘loud speaker’, too! Having the Organizer ask for the real needs of a family eases a huge burden for them. Use a Food Tidings Schedule to humbly and graciously direct Participants in multiple ways that will meet a family’s needs, without having to ask for it themselves.
Prayer: The power of PRAYER can not be underestimated. Call it ‘meditation’, ‘good vibes’, ‘good thoughts’ or what you will. It works. Even people of little or no faith will appreciate the gesture of “prayer”; just mentioning the word can bring calming and soothing thoughts. It lets a person know that you actually do care and you want the best for them. Aside from the psychological assurance that the God of the universe knows what is going on through ‘prayer requests’, taking a moment to pray healing and life into a person reaches them, and you, on so many levels. Don’t just say it, actually do it – pray for them in person, set a daily or weekly reminder on your phone and/or write them a card that shares a prayer so they can read it themselves (over and over). Hearing something can make you believe it, especially when you’re too exhausted to say it yourself. Prayer can make all the difference. It gives HOPE. Not only is it free to do, but the impact is priceless; again, to both of you.
Tiding Tip: Plan for the Long Road
There is often a lot of help at the beginning that tapers off in the middle or toward the end of treatment; which is when cancer fighters are actually the most exhausted. Chances are, a person will be in more need of support toward the end of treatment, but more hesitant to ask. Plan to spread out or refresh the efforts so that an entire treatment timeline is covered. A celebration or nice meal to mark milestones, is always a nice touch, too!
We hope this list gives you some new perspective and/or inspires you to come up with your own ideas to support someone you know. HOPE is always in style, so give it away freely.
I loved FoodTidings.com at first sight. My husband and I had the opportunity to join the Food Tidings team in 2011 as Partners, after meeting the original co-founders at our church. I have a Bachelors in Public Administration from the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!) and a Masters in Health Services Administration/Strategic Planning & Marketing from The George Washington University. We planned my early retirement from the market 3 kids in and was blessed with a 4th to complete us; finishing with 2 boys & 2 girls. Our oldest is now launched, happily married and proudly serving in the Air Force, one is in college (adding a Wildcat to the family), while the two at home keep us on our toes, amazed and inspired. As a full-time Wife and Mom, this website is my side-gig that serves as a personal ministry for our family. Seeing caring communities created, hope spread and generosity in action continues to be a motivator for all of us. Matt 5:16