Help a Family
You can learn more and make a difference
Childhood cancer, like other difficult medical challenges, places great strain on young patients and their families, and it is wonderful that you want to be supportive during this trying time.
Keep in mind that many families aren’t used to needing or accepting help from others. The best way to offer assistance is to name a specific task or service that you’d like to do for them and to remember that, if the family refuses at first, you may want to offer again a week or two later. It’s also important to remember that the road to recovery can take years, and many families will need long-term assistance.
Here are a few ways you can make a difference in the lives of families affected by cancer:
- Offer to clean their house when they come home from the hospital.
- Buy CDs, an MP3 player, puzzles, reading or activity books for the child and his or her siblings.
- If you’re welcome to visit the hospital, offer to wait with the parents on those long days when they may be scared, bored and exhausted all at the same time.
- Bring a favorite food or a new magazine, and lots of news and stories so the parents feel less left out of their regular life.
- Spend time with the child so Mom or Dad can take a shower, get something to eat or just enjoy some quiet downtime.
- Enlist friends to send cards and silly, fun things to the child and his or her siblings.
- Help the child start a collection of favorite things — stickers, pins, toys, scrapbooks — to provide something fun to focus on, and to give family and friends gift-giving ideas.
- Offer to babysit the other children, or encourage one of the siblings to call you whenever he or she needs to talk.
- Be the “fun friend” who always shows up with entertaining stuff like bubbles, silly string, joke books and rub-on tattoos.
- To help keep the family from feeling bombarded with daily calls, set up a voice mail system, an answering machine or a blog that provides updates on the child’s progress and records well-wishes.
Most importantly, work with the family to help them solve any problems that may arise. Never decide on your own to sponsor a large project like a fundraiser or major house repair without talking to the family first. As well-meaning as many of these efforts can be, they may not always serve the family’s most urgent needs. Any supportive undertaking needs to be done in a way that respects the family’s wishes and honors their privacy.
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