Help for those helping

Hello, This is a response to a question that Tara asked about supporting her mother through chemotherapy. I think a lot people may find themselves (or have found themselves) in this situation, so inside of simply replying to the comment – here is an entire post. If you’ve been a carer for someone please share any ideas/tips to help Tara and Zsolt through their challenge. This is a good time to try posting on a blog if you’ve never done so before.  🙂

*FYI these ideas are only based on my experience and nothing else. Since chemotherapy effects every person uniquely, please adapt these ideas as needed – or ignore them completely if inappropriate. I’m not an expert, okay? This is simply what helps me.

Ideas for helping while someone you love undergoes chemotherapy:

Emotions: Sometimes the drugs (and situation) can cause sadness, and in those cases we need to cry, talk, and have someone who will listen. Crying is a release, so if she does just let her go or even join in. Getting it out means less sadness left inside. And after the cry, you can tell her that she’s doing well, you are so proud of her, and you love her very much. Reminder her that you will all get through this, and then make two cups of tea (or her favourite drink).

* there is this homeopathic spray I used to help me calm down. It’s called rescue remedy and it’s to encourage relaxation. Being homeopathic, it’s not a drug and shouldn’t interfere with chemo stuff, but you should check with your doctor if unsure.

Physical Stuff: When feeling exhausted it’s difficult to be motivated. That is where YOUR support is so important. You are the motivation. Take her on a one, or two, or ten minute walk – whatever time she can handle. Walking helps to clear the drugs, so ultimately it helps her feel better. I like to play Just Dance with Zsolt, so there is another idea.

Same for drinking. We chemo people need to drink a lot (if possible) after treatment. This also clears the drugs. The nurse told me at least 2 litres a day, but that is hard to manage and when I’m sick it feels impossible. So again, bring her drinks – and have a variety in the home like juice, tea, water, etc. It will make drinking less of a chore.

I really depend on the support of others in terms of my health. My mom chases me to take supplements, and thank goodness she does. Without her I wouldn’t recover so well.

Mental Stuff: Another way you can help is by simply ‘visiting’. Come over and talk about your day, what you’ve done, the funny things you’ve seen. Her mind may be on cancer – but I’ll tell you what, the minute it stop fixating on that problem the nausea and fatigue becomes less. Just being there for a visit helps. Topics like chemotherapy treatment, needles, nausea, etc. shouldn’t be fixated upon unless she brings it up (and then, please do talk about it as much as needed). I have a gag reflex to the words ‘chemo treatment’ right now. I’d much rather talk about my friend’s new kittens, or Zsolt’s thesis, or what I put in the goulash to make it so awesome.

Housekeeping: Cooking and cleaning take energy. Until we chemo people have energy again, it is such (SUCH) a relief to have help. Making meals, preparing snacks, cleaning the bathroom – they’re like little miracles that help us along. If you can assist in these areas, please do.

I think that carers take on a lot of responsibility and emotional stress. Groups like Macmillian have support for you if it is needed. Otherwise don’t forget to talk with people about how you feel. It is okay to be overwhelmed, we all are. The key thing is to push on and find relief for the stress. There will be happy moments filled with love (laughing over a memory, sharing a hug, going somewhere familiar); savour those times, they are your life boat and a reminder that this will pass.

I hope that helps. Anyone with ideas toward supporting people going through chemotherapy please take this opportunity to share your experience with someone who needs it.

Thanks 🙂




5 thoughts on “Help for those helping

  1. Hi – it’s me. I received some great tips from Nicole on my facebook site. Here they are:

    “I found that when one of my best friend’s had cancer, her life became all about the cancer. It was all cancer, almost all the time and she truly hated how it consumed her and her loved ones lives.
    One of the things I tried to do, was remind her of other things she loved before her life got taken over. Because she was so busy with treatment, she missed reading articles, books, music, tv shows and movies. Every time I would find something, I knew she would have loved if she has found it herself, I’d save it. Then I’d send her a care package. The idea being to make her feel less that she was living in a cancer vacuum and that she was missing things. ”

    And here is another tip she sent:

    “Another thing that I tried when another friend of mine got sick, was that with him we would make lists of things he was looking forward to doing once he got his strength back from treatment. Anything from going to the water park, being able to visit his friends in Ottawa again, to eating his favorite meal in his favorite restaurant in a city he wanted to visit. etc.
    He found looking forward to things(other than leaving the hospital) helpful. :)”

    Thanks Nicole!

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