A year into our cancer journey, Chris and I were asked to be on a guest panel of cancer survivors and caregivers at Relay for Life in Denison, Texas. I shared some of the resources I found most helpful at that point:
Cancer support groups. Talking with cancer survivors can give you the encouragement you need to fight this devastating disease.
Talking with other caregivers and counselors. Being able to vent fears and frustrations with those who understand what you are going through can be extremely helpful. The patient’s job is to focus on getting well—not to be the caregiver’s support system. You can gain valuable tips from other caregivers and counselors from the cancer center or hospital.
CaringBridge. To keep from being overwhelmed answering numerous phone calls, texts, and emails from family and friends, keep them updated all at the same time on this free website. Their notes of prayers and encouragement will help you immensely, especially if you are away from home for long periods during treatment. This website is also useful in letting people know how they can pray for the patient and caregiver, when the patient feels like having visitors, or when it would be best to hold off phone calls and visits. It's also useful to let people know when a meal would be appreciated. Go to: www.caringbridge.org to sign up for this website.
Help with meals and tasks. Ask a friend or family member to coordinate meals for you using a free website. Give them a list of those who have offered to bring meals, along with their phone numbers and email addresses. You can sign up at MealTrain.com, Lotsahelpinghands.com, or similar websites. Friends/family who live far away can even send gift cards to restaurants in lieu of bringing a meal. (If the patient doesn't feel well enough to go out to eat, you can sometimes order the meal to go.) Meal Train Plus allows you to coordinate transportation, childcare, pet sitting, errands, and chores for the family. If someone says, “Let me know what I can do to help,” ask them what specifically they are willing to help with and write it down on a list. (You don’t want to contact them for a meal if what they are willing to do is mow your yard.) Don’t be embarrassed to take them up on their offer. It blesses the giver as much as the recipient.
Helpful books. Read books that are strongly recommended by cancer survivors or caregivers:
- Cancer—50 Essential Things to Do by Greg Anderson is a great instruction guide, especially for the newly diagnosed. I read it at least twice.
- When Life Becomes Precious, A Guide for Loved Ones and Friends of Cancer Patients by Elise NeeDell Babcock is another book I referred to more than once. It is full of practical advice on how to help someone going through cancer.
- A Caregiver’s Story, Coping with A Loved One’s Life-Threatening Illness by Ann Brandt is an informative handbook for patients and caregivers, especially if brain cancer is involved.
- Co-Surviving Cancer: The Guide for Caregivers, Family Members and Friends of Adults Living with Cancer by Katie Brown was released in 2017. I’ll admit I haven’t read the book, but I have peeked inside, and it appears to be another helpful guide. Katie has a unique perspective as a former caregiver and is a two-time cancer survivor herself. She has been a stage 4 liver cancer survivor since 2015. The author has received numerous awards for patient advocacy and is well-known in the lung cancer world in her work with various cancer organizations.
- His Love Carries Me and Cancer on Two Wheels are now on my recommended list. These are not instructional guides like the above books, but these are the types of books we needed to read to know what to expect and how to cope with day-to-day life during the cancer journey. These books show firsthand the emotional and spiritual battle and let you know you’re not alone with what you are dealing with. My book also shows why it is so important to be an advocate for the patient.
Psalms. Personalize Psalms in the Bible by substituting the words "cancer cells" whenever it talks about the enemy or evil. It will help you remember that God is on your side. He’s in the battle with you.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the products or services I have mentioned (other than my own books). I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."