Here are my suggestions:
Join a cancer support group. Even if you already have an amazing support system, you will benefit from a monthly time to vent, share strategies for comfort, and gain/give encouragement. Through many local hospitals and churches, there are also support groups for cancer caregivers and kids of cancer patients. Get to Googling.
Sign up for free house-cleaning. Cleaning for a Reason is a non-profit that matches women with cancer in the U.S. and Canada with local house-cleaning professionals. They'll clean your house for free 4 times with a note from your doctor. BLISS. (This can take 6 weeks to get started so file your paperwork before your surgery or chemo.)
Start a Blog/CaringBridge Site. If you're not a writer, have a family member or friend create a special place to keep folks up-to-date on your progress and list specific needs and prayer requests. I personally like Blogger. I've seen friends use Caring Bridge, too, or you can create a private Facebook group. It will save you and your loved ones so much time from the CONSTANT calls and text messages.
Let someone start a MealTrain when they offer. Just hop on board. You think you can cook and take care of your family all on your pretty little lonesome? Girl, you need help! A friend can set this up for you. It's a great way for people to meet a real, physical need during a time in which they feel particularly helpless.
Allow a friend or family member to create a medical fundraiser if they offer. You don't want to admit you need this. But when you start choosing between your mortgage and your medical treatments, you'll be so relieved to have funds in a PayPal account ready to transfer to your bank. A trusted friend or family member is a great person to set this up for you and spread the word.
After chemo, participate in "Look Good, Feel Better." Most hospitals (and some support groups) offer this class from the American Cancer Society. You'll get make-up tips and learn scarf/turban techniques. Register and tell them your skin tone, and they GIFT you with the makeover and a bag FULL of expensive make-up and skin care goodies. They can also assist you in getting a free wig.
Favorite Cancer Things: (Now there's something I never thought I'd say...)
My wig. Invest in at least one good wig (made with human hair), or buy a bunch of cheaper, fun ones to do Themo-Therapy like my rock-star friend, Angie. I went with my amazing hairstylist, Nikki, to a shop in Duluth, GA called So Good Beauty and Bridal. She helped me choose something that is so close to my natural hair color and style that people truly couldn't tell the difference between my old hair and this new do I pull on and off like a hood. Tell your So Good sales associate you're fighting cancer and you get 20% off.
Holy City Skin Products. Great for muscle aches, or to just make you feel like a girl again. Also, Claritin (the regular kind - Loratadine only) works great for chemo aches and pains. My doctor recommended the Claritin. RANDOM. I know.
Essential Oils. I've come to love their benefits and especially LOVE my diffuser. My favorite oils are peppermint and frankincense.
Button-up shirts and PJs. If you're having a mastectomy, you can't lift your arms over your head for a few weeks. You need an easy way to get in and out of your clothes.
Cleansing towelettes. Hit the hot spots, girls. You won't be showering like you're used to, and you'll want to freshen up.
Drain bag holders and safety pins for after your mastectomy if you need one. The support group I attend at Hebron Church offers the drain bags for free along with many other free comfort items and resources.
JuicePlus. Fruits and vegetables in a capsule. Powerful antioxidants. I've always loved this product, but when I was neutropenic, it was literally the only way I could injest a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and berries.
Milk of Magnesia, Squatty Potty, TUCKS... in that order (for serious tummy troubles after pain meds) If any one of those words just gave you a small glimmer of hope, this trio will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. If you don't know what I'm talking about, keep it moving. (No pun intended.)
Lastly, if you love someone with cancer, here are some things YOU can do:
- Send cards regularly. Nothing lightens the load of medical bill mail like beautiful cards from beautiful people who love you.
- Send gift cards to restaurants and grocery stores. Gift cards to Kroger, Publix, Chick-fil-a, and Domino's have saved my children from sure starvation. These are just as helpful and appreciated as delivering a meal.
- Bring paper products. If you deliver a meal, bring paper plates, cups, etc. Even toilet paper and paper towels. These are essentials your friend with cancer will surely appreciate, and it saves her a trip to the grocery store.
- Buy your friend a candle. She can't clean often and sometimes the funk takes over. Especially when meals are being delivered, it's nice to cover up the smells of a home run amok.
- Call, text, email, and then end every message with "NN2R." My friend, Michelle, started doing this for me. "NN2R" means "no need to respond." I do reply when I can, but knowing she's sending me love without the expectation of an instant reply gives me freedom to rest. She knows I'll be there (and vice-versa) when this whole nightmare is over.
- Just say or do something. Don't drop out of your friend's life because you can't handle her illness. It makes her sad. Your friend has enough to be sad about! If she can soldier through this, surely you can, too. Big girl pants only please.
I promise to write another post before surgery on Tuesday. I have a lot on my heart to share. But for now, thank you. Thank you to every single person who has done any one of these wonderful things for me. Many of you have done MOST things or EVERY thing. How did I get so blessed? I will never, ever forget the countless ways you have shown me and my family love.
Love you back,
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…” John 15:12
P.S. Don't sue me if you trip over your squatty potty. I'm not giving you medical advice or pushing specific products. I'm just sharing what worked for me. Talk to your doctor about your unique situation. And GET YOUR JESUS. All of the things listed combined are NOTHING compared to His power in your life during your illness. Yes, get your Jesus!