Lately, customers have been contacting me about friends and family going through cancer treatment. It’s made me think about how we’re so focused on Covid right now. Yet, other illnesses are still there. People are still being diagnosed and still need care.

So, I’m bringing back an old blog post from more than 5 years ago. It’s just as relevant and timely today, with a few updates for our current lockdown situation.

How to help

Never underestimate the kindness and generosity of the human spirit. It was heartwarming when so many people found ways to help me and my family during my cancer experience 10 years ago. And it wasn’t only family and close friends but distant neighbours, friends of friends, and casual acquaintances. I’ll always be grateful for the heartfelt support we received during that difficult time.

It was also surprising and puzzling when people we thought would show up, did not. I realized it’s not that people don’t want to help. It’s because they don’t know what to do, they’re at a loss for the right words, they don’t want to intrude, and maybe it’s just too scary to face when it hits close to home.

So, here’s a list of 10 things you can do for someone going through cancer or other illness.

Help with chores

1. Porch deliver a meal. It doesn’t have to be fancy or made of only organic ingredients. If you’re making a meal for your own family, double it up and bring it over. Remember to not only think of the patient but the rest of the family, which may include young children. A batch of pasta sauce is a good option. Here’s a handy and free scheduling tool called the Care Calendar. Family and friends can use this to coordinate meals. Another option is to arrange delivery of a meal from a home delivery service like Supperworks, Time Saver Food, or Heart to Home.

2. Leave an empty laundry basket on their doorstep. Routine household chores are probably not high on their priority list, but still need to get done sooner or later. Returning a basket full of freshly laundered and folded clothes will be a tremendous help.

Folded towels in a laundry basket.

Imagine a basket full of clean and freshly folded towels on your doorstep.

3. Pick up essential items. The next time you’re running out for essentials, have them email or text you a list of what they need. If you’re going out to the grocery store or pharmacy anyway, picking up a few extra items is easy to do.

Think of the “person” going through treatment

4. Do online exercise, yoga, meditation with them. Any type of activity that is enjoyable and good for their well-being will be welcome. It will help them feel better and gives you both something to focus on besides trying to fill up those awkward gaps in a zoom conversation.

5. Send a card. It will let them know you’re aware of what’s going on and you’re thinking of them. Emily McDowell’s empathy cards will hit just the right note.

Empathy cards by Emily McDowell

Empathy cards by Emily McDowell

6. Send them a soft and breathable bamboo top specially designed for women going through treatment. It can be stepped into and pulled up making it easy to get dressed, There’s an inner liner for added coverage and comfort. The reversible neckline provides access to a port. A headscarf or PICC line cover are also thoughtful gifts that bring comfort during treatment.

COKANNA bamboo reversible tank, PICC sleeve, headscarf

Maxine reversible tank, PICC sleeve, and headscarf

7. Remember it’s the little things that make a difference and will help them get through this challenging time. Think about their favourites things and what brings a smile to their face. Perhaps, it’s sending them a funny cartoon every day, or sending them a book by a favourite author, or their favourite candy, or recommending a good Netflix series, or making a playlist of their favourite songs, or knitting a cozy blanket.

8. Just be there and listen. Don’t offer advice (unless specifically asked for) and don’t bring up stories about Aunt Mary who went through the same thing. Everyone’s experience is different. Sit, hold the space, listen, and let them be the lead.

Remember the rest of the family

9. Check in with their partner or caregiver. They’re often forgotten in all of this. They’re usually doing double duty especially if there are kids involved so they can be physically and emotionally drained.

10. Don’t be afraid to talk to the kids. Adults are often afraid to bring up bad news with kids. You don’t want to upset them but kids are intuitive, they know what’s going on. They’ll probably appreciate it if you ask how mom or dad is doing, and may need someone outside the family circle to talk to. If you’re unsure about this, check with the parents first.

More ideas

The ideas are endless. We just need to put a little thought, empathy, and compassion into it. And, whatever you do, don’t place the “how can I help” burden on them. They already have enough on their plate. If you want to help, get creative and just do it.

More ideas? Comment below and I’ll add them to the list. The more we can do to help one another, the better, especially during these isolating times. As The Beatles so aptly sang, “Oh I get by with a little help from my friends”.

P.S. Don’t forget about my January 50% OFF sale. Everything is half price except for summer dresses and accessories.

Shop here

Until next time,

~ Colleen

Colleen Kanna, Photo by Anna Epp Photography

I’m a recovering Chartered Accountant and Breast Cancer Champion turned Fashion Designer. My COKANNA Canadian-made bamboo clothing is all about comfort and style. Giving back to the community is important to me so I support Rethink Breast Cancer‘s metastatic breast cancer education, support, and advocacy work.