A person helps another person up a mountain.

Bright Spot Network: In Good Help

“How can I help?” can be a dreaded question for people with cancer. It’s often the first thing people say when they hear about the diagnosis. Yes, it is a well-intentioned question aimed to lessen the burden for the person with cancer. It also puts the responsibility back on the person with cancer to come up with ideas. They are already saddled with a million other decisions and worries, which means they often dismiss the act of kindness with a “I’m good!” response. Both parties miss out on a valuable opportunity of support and connection.

I always tell friends and family that the best way they can help someone with cancer is to give them a list of options, not just a blanketed invitation to help. Give them a menu of options to choose from that caters to their unique needs, and ones that you can actually follow through with. Don’t just drop off lasagna. Ask them what their dietary restrictions and preferences are. Think about more than just the patient – how might you offer support to partners, children, and pets? Take a moment to make your offer genuine, and easy to accept.

If you are a person with cancer, it may be worth your time and energy to create a list of activities and chores to keep on hand for the next time someone asks what they can do to help. Identify an “inner circle” who can help with more intimate tasks, and hold on to other ideas for acquaintances.

Here are some ideas about specific activities that can be helpful for families facing cancer.

Written by Carissa Hodgson, LCSW, OSWC, Director of Programs and Community Outreach at Bright Spot Network

About Triage Cancer

Triage Cancer is a national, nonprofit providing free education to people diagnosed with cancer, caregivers, and health care professionals on cancer-related legal and practical issues. Through events, materials, and resources, Triage Cancer is dedicated to helping people move beyond diagnosis.

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