Judith-L-Breast

Eight ways to respond to ‘how can I help?’ requests when you have cancer

Judith L. has received treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) for stage 4 breast cancer. She’s a retired teacher of 30 years and serves on the CTCA® patient advisory council. After learning about a cancer diagnosis, friends and family will often say, “If you need anything, let me know.” The open-ended offer is genuine, but may feel difficult to answer when navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Judith shares her creative solutions on where loved ones can lend a hand.  

  1. Put your pride aside and accept the help. Yes, this one may be more of a mental reminder, but it’s still important to reiterate. When someone offers to bring over a homemade dinner or walk your pets, it’s OK to say yes. Remember: People want to help. They just don’t know what you need.
  2. Prayers. If spiritual support is important to you, one easy way others may be able to help support you is through prayer.
  3. A ride to and from appointments. You may be too weak to drive, so curbside service from a friend may help you stay relaxed and rested between appointments. Consider sharing a calendar of appointments that allows loved ones to volunteer for different dates.
  4. Note taking (and another set of ears). Whether it’s a diagnostic appointment or physical therapy, you may need help absorbing new information. A great way a loved one may be able to help is by attending appointments with you, asking questions and jotting down notes.
  5. Grocery shopping and meal prep. Whether the meals are made from scratch, frozen or given as gift cards, having dinner options readily available is never a bad idea. Treatment may leave you feeling too tired to think about a stocked fridge. Don’t be afraid to recruit a loved one to lead the charge on meal delivery or grab the essentials from the grocery store for you.
  6. Housekeeping. Whether it’s a mountain of laundry that needs folding or help navigating childcare, this is a great way to keep your home environment clean and your loved ones busy.
  7. Errand running. Maybe it’s a prescription that needs to be picked up, a trip to the vet for Fido or even a package that needs to be mailed, errands can be time-consuming and exhausting. Write down your errand list for the week and share it with a friend.
  8. Previous commitments. Accept the fact that you cannot fulfill all your previous outside commitments (whether it’s volunteering at church or tackling a big work assignment) and be willing to delegate to others as long as necessary.