Finding the Right Words
Reaching out can make a world of difference to a family affected by cancer.
Here is some help in finding the right words to say.
Prepare before you visit
Before you visit or call, make a small mental list of things happening at school, in the neighborhood, at church, the latest scores from the baseball, hockey, basketball or football team. Remember to ask about their hobbies, work and other children and family members. And don’t forget to ask the parents how they are doing. But most importantly, be sure to actually make the phone call or visit — put a schedule on your calendar to remind you. Families of cancer patients often feel like they “have the plague” since so many people don’t call to simply keep in touch.
Don’t say: “I don’t know how you handle it!”
Think about what the family is facing and realize that they simply have no choice but to do everything they can to protect their child. In fact, many families may not be “handling it” at all as they wander through the haze of hospital rooms, surgeries, and drug therapies for their children. Although they may have a smile on their faces as they talk to you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t cry in the nights, worried to death about their child. Sometimes the best advice is not to say anything, but to simply listen.
Talk with the child
Take a few minutes to talk with the child. They also need to have friends to discuss the many unknowns in their lives and to stay in touch with their peers, schoolmates and activities.
Finally, cancer treatment is long. It is crucial not to abandon a family as time passes. Be diligent and support the family for the duration of the treatment. It can be devastating to a family to have wonderful support at time of diagnosis then feel alone during the long months that cancer treatments can often endure. Reach out often. They need constant support and strength.
It’s also important to remember that the road to recovery can take years, and many families will need long-term assistance.