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The first time I came face-to-face with cancer, I was in my early twenties and I had recently lost my grandmother (my father’s mother) to lung cancer. Even though we learned of her diagnosis a year prior, it was still a shock. Throughout that year, I learned just how important it is for the family to be as present and supportive as possible.
However, it wasn’t until a few years later that I would learn just how supportive (and how strong) my own family really was.
In November 2011, both of my uncles (my mother’s older and younger brothers) were diagnosed with cancer. My younger uncle was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, which would claim his life only months later. My older uncle was diagnosed with gum cancer, which spread to the lungs, brain, and bones, claiming his life in January 2017. Just 2 months ago, my grandfather (my mother’s father) was also diagnosed.
Throughout these last several years, learning how to make myself uncomfortable to help someone else be comfortable was something that I knew I had to do.
Simple tasks that I wasn’t used to, such as cooking and preparing meals for a week, driving family members to doctor visits, being a comforting ear after those appointments and being a support after daily/weekly chemo and radiation treatments became routine.
One of my biggest regrets is that, after I knew my uncle DeRon was close to dying in 2012, I backed away. From the time of his initial hospitalization, the day before Thanksgiving in 2011, through 2 days before his death in April 2012, I had only seen him once. The final time I saw him, I apologized; he told me it was okay.
For family members of those diagnosed with cancer, it can be difficult to find the “right” words to say. What I learned, however, is that I never needed to try to say the right things. Just being there was enough.
Family members being present is sometimes all that is needed to help a loved one get through the day. Even now, I will often call my grandfather just to see if he is watching The Young and the Restless. It makes him laugh, and I know that it makes his day.
Help Out Where You Can
There are everyday things that your loved one may need taken care of: preparing meals, doing housework and going to the grocery store. I know that I really hate driving, so while I wouldn’t offer to take him or her to run errands, I would offer to prepare meals.
With This is Living with Cancer™ and the LivingWith™ app, created by Pfizer, patients and their loved ones may help manage life with cancer and organize certain important information in one place. Additionally, This is Living with Cancer shares inspiring stories to support and inspire those whose lives have been affected by cancer.
It’s important that you only offer what you truly want to help with. Even if you feel that you have nothing to offer, there is always something that you can do. Put on your thinking cap and get creative.
Take Care of Yourself
Being in a supportive role can be physically and emotionally taxing. It’s important that as either a caregiver or someone who is just there for emotional support, you take the time out to think about you and your needs as well. If things become too hard emotionally, be sure to reach out to other family members and friends for help. No matter the role, no one should have to go through cancer alone.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.