As we enter Logan’s seventh round of chemotherapy and she closes in on her 300th lifetime dose, I find myself deep in reflection of what we’ve learned.
One of the questions I get asked the most is “What can I do to help?”
Sadly, cancer affects so many of us and when it strikes we are left floundering and wondering what efforts will bring comfort and ease some of the pain.
After the shock of ‘how could this happen?’ subsides, a call to action is how most people cope.
Here are the 10 things I have learned and have been most helpful to our family over the past 12 years.
1. No one knows what to do
You aren’t alone. No one saw this coming, and not one person can help you grasp the magnitude of the situation.
It is shitty and yes, unfortunately doesn’t discriminate. It happens to people who don’t deserve it.
Acknowledge this but also try to let your own sadness and anxiety around the disease go.
Try to think very deeply about the energy you’d want around if it were you. There is a difference between sympathy and pity. No one ever wants to be pitied.
Check your emotion at the door and bring only empathy and compassion to the space.
There is also no place for anger, fear and worry. The person with cancer already has enough of their own.
This isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. We can all see the elephant in the room.
It’s ok to say how you are feeling but don’t make it about you.
One of the best things someone said to me when Logan was diagnosed for the fourth time was…
“I am so sorry this happening and I don’t know what to say except I hope she doesn’t die. The thought of having my child die really freaks me out and I have no idea what to do for you. I really want to be strong for you but I don’t know how to navigate this. I want to fix it but I can’t and I will never know if what I am doing is right or wrong so please just let me know if you need more or less of me because all I really am trying to do is help.”
When your intention is compassion, nothing you can say or do will be wrong, ever.
2. Bring food
But not a lasagna.
It’s kind of an inside joke because at one point we had 18 lasagnas (all varieties) in our freezer. It got me thinking.
Meals are such a godsend but when everything around you is heavy, it’s good to keep a few things light even if it’s just a food.
Green juice, salads, wraps, fresh veggies and fruits, blended smoothies and cold tea are some great ideas.
Hospital food and take out can get old (and super, expensive) fast.
Even when eating feels like the last thing you think your loved one will want to do, they still need to eat and believe me, cooking feels like a monumental task when you are stressed or confined to a hospital room with limited resources.
A meal is the most primal and comforting thing you can do.
Try to give healthy choices and fresh options to keep energy levels boosted.
Also know, you aren’t helpless. Your cooking makes a world of difference.
Trust me, fresh food will be super appreciated, someone right behind you is already bringing a lasagna❤️
3. Give cash or just throw the damn fundraiser
We all want to do something tangible but more than something tangible we all want to do something meaningful.
We want to give a gift that is perfect and profound and beautiful. We want our efforts to inspire and remind the ones we love to be strong and courageous.
The special gifts we receive are very cherished.
But, for most affected by an unexpected diagnosis, cash flow very quickly becomes an issue.
Your loved one may assure you they will be fine (my standard quote😉) but know- expenses do add up and money does become an additional stress.
No one plans for additional expenses like
Eating out every day, parking, gas, medications not covered, purchasing forgotten items when stuck at the hospital, doing cool shit and checking off bucket list items, holistic, organic, (a sudden need to do what’s best) non toxic, essential oils, distractions, clothes that suddenly don’t fit, wigs, hats, fun activities, new pj’s, another iTunes movie, RMT’s, acupuncturists, Reiki masters, weird healers and expensive bottles of wine.
You get the point.
On one hand, money should be last thing you worry about but on the other hand income is reduced and banks have zero mercy.
Money may feel like a meaningless gift but it is far from it.
It is needed.
You worked hard for your money and it is an honour to be able to share it and even more of an honour to receive it. Coming together to collectively raise funds is far more than just giving cash. It is a beautiful energy of togetherness that opens space for people to do ‘something’ and for abundance to flow.
In my opinion, society in general has a weird relationship with money.
We measure too much of our overall value because of it. We believe the more we have, the happier we will be. We believe when we finally have enough cash we will find the comfort and freedom we desire and we believe the harder we work the more we will earn.
Most of us have a hard time accepting cash because of the very ties it has to our own self worth. Having less means feeling less than.
It has taken me a long time to understand my relationship with money. What I have learned from having to give up my career and go from being the family bread winner to an unemployed house wife is that money is just energy.
Open yourself up to any form of energy and it will flow in your direction. It may not come from where you think it should and you won’t always know how it will manifest. You just have to be super grateful when it does.
It’s hard to accept a hand out of cash because no one wants to feel like a charity case.
It’s that pity thing again….
Know you are loved and money truly only exists for one reason- so it can be exchanged.
Transferring and exchanging your money to give it away with kindness and intention while knowing you are easing someone’s burden and allowing them some freedom from financial stress is a pretty powerful gift.
Honestly, it’s the best gift you can give.
Because money can be touchy for some, you may fear that pride and ego will get in the way of your loved one accepting your kindness.
If that is the case, give it anonymously.
And if you don’t have any to give but someone is trying to raise some, find out how you can help.
Your time is so incredibly valuable and your acknowledgement will come from a deep knowing you have given so much more than just a few bucks.
4. Limit your miracle cures
I am so happy to hear that your cousin’s uncle’s sister’s aunt cured her own brain tumour with cannabis oil.
I really am.
And yes I do know all about it because I’ve been added to 85 private Facebook groups by 300 of our mutual friends.
I appreciate the concern but please know…sometimes the overload of holistic approaches and clinical trials can be overwhelming and feel borderline degrading.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
I get it.
I’ve ordered everything from hundred dollar asian mushrooms to healers who claimed they could eat my child’s tumour.
I’ve done it all.
I’ve stayed up endless nights researching cutting edge procedures in Germany and spent hundreds of dollars putting MRIs on discs so I could privately send them to doctors in the US even though my oncologist has assured me we have access to most of the very same trials.
I’ve hired Chinese doctors, cranial sacral healers and had a reiki master shift the energy flow of the treatments given to my kid.
We’ve cut out sugar, ate a vegan diet, had our chakras balanced and our palms read.
I’ve opened myself up to prayer chains, allowed healing hands to brush over my daughter’s noggin and forced her to take a 10 week course on mindful meditation.
Our therapist has made a small fortune from us.
In the end what I have learned is we each have to do what feels right for us.
That just has to be ok with you. Period.
I believe in science.
I choose not to think the pharmaceutical companies and all doctors are part of a giant conspiracy of greed. Yes, I do watch all the Netflix documentaries but I still don’t believe in the heartlessness of letting another child die because they don’t care rather I truly believe they just don’t know.
Cancer is complicated. No two are really the same. We are making progress in treatments and survival rates. We still have a long way to go. Treatments are leaning more and more towards personalized medicine and what works for each individual.
This isn’t about having a debate or about my own ignorance. It is about science. It is about experience and it is about knowing better and doing better-for us.
I think we all have the right to do what we feel is best for our individual and unique situation.
I also think as bystanders and witness’ it is your job to offer up what you can to support our choices and not always need to fix things or provide solutions.
I believe in eating somewhat clean and exposing ourselves to as little toxins and stress as we can. I believe in living a life that is a quest to feel satisfied, balanced and purposeful.
Our motto is to find happiness, laughter and have experience. We believe the most powerful thing you can do to combat your disease is to control your mind. The body is just a vessel for the soul. Always feed the soul.
The rest is #rollwithit. You can’t change it anyhow.
So, I know you mean well, but please- read my body language.
My kid does NOT want to lick the healing salt off of the inside of a fish bowl every day for rest of her life.
And even if you believe the chemo is killing her, she believes it is keeping her alive so she can go see the kangaroos in Australia and the floating villas in the Maldives.
Give it to her.
Give it to us.
She deserves to feel empowered and supported.
We have no room for shame or judgement about what we aren’t doing to save her life.
And just one last thing- I know you say you’d do anything to save your kid’s life.
But remember you actually have no idea what it is like to have to do so.
5. Bring wine.
6. It is not a competition
This is a big one. Because this has nothing to with cancer and everything to do with being human.
When all is good, a lot of us compare ourselves to others which is such a drag because when do it we never feel enough.
Not good enough, not smart enough, not rich enough or pretty enough. We don’t have a nice enough car or house, or good enough spouse or kids or job.
Social media is the worst for this.
But, on the other hand, when something really shitty happens and people become sick, or are faced with death the competition doesn’t go away. Instead, it flips and suddenly one party feels more privileged, more balanced and infinitely luckier than the other.
Friendships change because people feel afraid, ashamed and guilty about celebrating the good their lives.
The reason most people don’t want to die is because when they take a step back they realize life is pretty rad and they should have let go of bullshit comparisons a long time ago.
Yes it sucks to be faced with an illness (or have a sick kid) but what sucks more is when your best friend won’t tell you about a new boyfriend, a job promotion or a lottery win because they don’t think you’ll be happy for them.
The same goes for being sad. When I ask someone about their woes I always get the same reply “It’s nothing compared to what you are dealing with…”
It’s not brain cancer.
Nor would I wish my situation on even my worst enemy, so please let’s carry on.
Tell me about the dirt bag, plenty of fish date you had and how you feel like you are never going to find happiness. Tell me about your crazy mother in law, or the amazing anniversary surprise your husband planned for you.
Tell me about it all. Please. I need normal. I need to know it still exists.
Cancer may have stripped a ton from my life but it hasn’t taken away my heart.
I care, and I’m no longer in competition with you or anyone.
So, unleash and share.
7. Invite me.
I probably can’t make it but I still want to be included. Period.
8. Remember the siblings
Or the husband or the sister or the mother…
Care taking and riding someone else’s cancer rollercoaster can be exhausting.
The person who is sick is often too weak and too helpless to be able to acknowledge the efforts of those who are their primary caregivers.
Showing up and giving a high five, a Starbucks giftcard, a handwritten letter or a carebear onesie to those towing the line can make a world of difference to the whole healing team and take the pressure off the sickie who can’t show any gratitude between the doses of toxic poison being pumped into their veins.
Any gift given to the whole family which can create an experience or takes the pressure off the people on the sidelines makes a huge impact.
9. Mean what you say, and say what you mean.
And for the love of god don’t say “If there is anything I can do to help..”
Because I can assure you we don’t know what the hell we need
we do know what we don’t need and that is any pressure to figure out and then tell you how you can be helpful and purposeful.
For starters, if you want to help- be clear and impeccable with your word.
If every second Wednesday at 4pm you can come wipe an ass- or clean a toilet or run a lawnmower or bring dinner or commit to getting drunk or staying sober so you can drive😉then only say it if you can own up to it.
People in trauma can’t stand wishy washy. When their whole world is uncertain your loose schedule will only add stress and put pressure on your relationship. Only commit to something if you can do it.
Also, know you don’t have to do big stuff and you don’t have to be a saviour and you don’t always have to be ‘there’ either.
Just be consistent.
It takes a village to get through cancer.
Don’t personally go broke (emotionally or financially) doing more than is reasonable (it happens).
Again, just be consistent and reasonable.
Set an alarm to send a text message or call on certain days. Whatever feels right and manageable will always be what is best for both parties.
Make yourself as available as you can but be fair to yourself and let go of expecting to be recognized or acknowledged. Your help means the world but trauma makes people assholes and sometimes they forget to say thank you.
Just know it is usually small insignificant gestures that make a world of difference to those of us who need you.
10. Love is all that matters. Period.
There can be a million excuses and reasons and things that get in the way of not doing what you want to most. Life is busy. Cancer is scary and awkward as hell. It is easy to postpone or avoid it all.
But nothing you tell yourself will matter when the opportunity passes or it’s too late.
The person who is sick will be baffled by who shows up to run the gauntlet with them and who abandons them in their time of need.
FYI we think we know who has our back- cancer changes everything.
But if you want to be there- show up however you can and don’t feel weird about it.
Disease is nothing more than the body being in a state of just that… dis-ease.
The funny thing is despite a fragile shell, this is usually a time when the spirit is at its strongest and authenticity rocks so….
Nurture however you can.
Respectful and encouraging.
Cry (yes it is ok to cry- in moderation😉)
Listen (it’s also ok to sit in silence)
Acknowledge the fucked-up-ness of the situation and all the shit that comes along with it but don’t dwell on it. Negativity is so over done.
Read your crowd and think before you speak. As yourself “is this helpful?” If it’s not shut your nervous mouth right up. We say stupid stuff when we are scared.
Apologize when you need to. We all need to do it at times.
Hold on tight
Know when to let go
This may not be your path to walk you can make the journey a little easier simply by showing sweetness and love ❤️