When a child is diagnosed with cancer, their world, and that of those around them, is turned upside down.
We know that you are worried about your friend or relative as they go through this, and you want to help…but how?
We all say it – “let me know if there’s anything I can do ”. And we mean it too, but it can be overwhelming for parents to tell you what help they need.
So instead, we have put together some practical tips on how you may be able to offer help and provide specific support.
Keep in touch
Let them know you are thinking of them. They might not be able to respond, and you can even reassure them that you don’t expect a reply, but those regular connections mean a lot.
Providing regular updates can be exhausting so you might suggest that parents update one nominated person, who will then take care of updating other family (as agreed with the parents). Just make sure you’re only sharing what the parents are happy to tell.
Bring or organise food
You may be able to deliver a home-cooked meal if you live close by, or even have groceries or meals delivered if you don’t.
Think about meals that freeze well and can be portioned out and heated up when necessary. Think about setting up a rota with other friends so that they family is not inundated with meals at the one time.
Help with childcare
Having a child with cancer means frequent, and often unplanned, visits to the hospital for treatment, check ups and even the slightest temperature. Having someone to take siblings at short notice is incredibly helpful.
You could offer to collect other children from school or creche for playdates or even sleepovers, helping them to have fun and providing a distraction, as well as practical help for parents.
There can be many lonely and worried trips to hospital when your child has cancer, often alone as the other parent is needed at home.
Offering a lift will give the family a rest but also some company on the journey, which is so appreciated.
Help with household tasks
When there is a serious illness in the family, the dog still needs to be walked and the grass still grows – helping with these tasks can really help.
Again, working out a schedule with family and friends can make sure it’s one less thing for parents to worry about.
Give parents a break
Letting parents get out together, even for just an hour, can be such a welcome break. Offer to babysit while they go out for dinner locally or go for a walk and a coffee.
Look out for siblings
Siblings’ lives have been turned upside down too and they may be struggling to come to terms with the changes in their family.
It can be our instinctive response to want to spoil the child who is sick, but don’t forget to also bring gifts or treats to the other children in the house too, as they will be dealing with a lot of upheaval in their lives.