That’s a pretty clever title right there. I mean, probably won’t rank very high on Google, but it’s clever! Anyways, let’s talk about helpers. When you get diagnosed with cancer, if you’re open about it, people are gonna wanna help. You’re going to have people you haven’t heard from in years reaching out to you asking if they can do anything. To be honest, it’s all pretty overwhelming. Here’s the problem though: unless your friends happen to be a group of skilled oncologists, there’s not much they can do to help. Directly, that is. They can’t help cure your disease but there are ways they can make dealing with it easier.
I’ve always believed there to be 3 separate categories of challenges when fighting cancer. There are physical challenges, mental challenges, and social challenges. The first is pretty self-explanatory: these are the shitty side effects like nausea and fatigue and that crap. Mental challenges are those such as depression, coping with the concept of death, self-motivation, stuff like that. But social challenges are the ones no one ever sees coming and they’re often the toughest to deal with. No one ever gets diagnosed and thinks “oh no, now Joe Shmo from 3rd grade is gonna start texting me asking if I want him to write me a poem” or some shit. These are the challenges like how your friends will start acting differently around you or how everyone is going to want to know how you’re doing all the time or even stuff like changes at your job and looking different when your hair falls out. All of these are challenges that really only pop up if you interact socially while going through treatment.
At first, it will probably be nice when people reach out. It shows people care. But after a while you may start to grow weary of explaining the situation over and over and you may find yourself wishing people would just leave you alone. It’s ok, it’s not selfish to want that. That’s why I started blogging in the first place. I was sick of texting all day as every person I’ve ever met was reaching out to hear what happened. I started just telling people, “you want the story? Read my blog.” And it worked great. Word spread, and the texts started to go away.
Next is gifts. If you’re in the hospital people will want to send gifts. Unfortunately, no one makes cancer registries, so no one ever knows what to get. I’ve gotten RC cars, jigsaw puzzles, balloons, all sorts of nonsense. People don’t always ask what you want, so this is something you just gotta sort of deal with. But for the people that do ask, don’t say nothing, say something that might actually be helpful. If someone says, “I want to get you something, what would you like?” don’t say, “I don’t actually need anything.” Let them get you something. It’ll make them feel good and maybe there’s something you need you can get. But be honest, don’t ask for something you’ll never use just to appease them. I usually ask for card games cause they help kill time at the hospital but maybe you’re sick of having to get bottled water and you want a nice water bottle or something. Fuck if I know. Another thing you can do that I never did but have heard of people doing is to ask for a donation in your name to a charity related to your illness.
Another good thing to do is to start a dinner rotation. Let people help by having them prepare some sort of casserole they can bring over. Organize it so people don’t bring you too much at once, but it is pretty helpful not to have to worry about groceries or cooking for a little while. And people usually love doing it. It’s great because they’re taking time out of their day to do something nice for you which will make them happier than just sending a text or buying something, plus free dinner is dope.
Moral of the story here: people are gonna want to help. Let them, but try to make it useful. If you don’t provide any direction, you’ll wind up with upset friends and nothing you can benefit from. But if you provide people with a way to help, that will make everyone happy. It’s human nature to want to help those close to you that are going through hard times, so it’s nicer to accept help when offered than it is to turn people away because you think you can do it all yourself.