Sunday, December 09, 2007

10 Top Tips to help someone dying of Cancer.

10 Top Tips to help someone dying of Cancer.

Whenever I think that my blog is superfluous to the plethora of information there is out there on cancer and dealing with it, someone writes to me and tells me it just isn't true. I received an email two days ago from someone whose close relative had just been diagnosed with Stage IV Cancer. Stage IV means secondary cancer: it means that the cancer has moved on from whereever it was originally and inhabited another part of the body, just like mine. I wrote back immediately but my mind has been percolating over her questions and so, here are my top 10 tips.

1. Deal with it away from the person. Find someone who can help you deal with it, go to a therapist, shout at the moon but you have to deal with the fact that someone close to you, someone about whom you may have unresolved feelings or issues is dying. You need to deal with that, and you need to deal with it away from them so that you can give them 100% support.

2. Don't transfer the anger onto them. It is not their fault that they have cancer, and even if, it is lung cancer and they are a 60 a day smoker, it will do nothing for them and you to be reminded. The anger needs to be directed at the cancer, or to be used fruitfully, not as a whipping stick for your friend/relative.

3. Support them in anything they want to do. They want to carry on working? Help them by telling them its right, helping them practically to carry on with whatever they feel they want to do. I felt so happy recently when I told my mother, who normally feels that work just drains me that I wanted to continue and she said that I absolutely needed to. It really helped.

4. Listen, listen, and listen again. That is why you need to do number 1 first. I need to talk about dying, I need to talk about death, and I need to talk about the world after I am gone. I want to sort out the future for my children without their mother. I want to discuss my funeral and I want to be sure that towards the end that events are sorted as I want. Please listen, assure me that I will always be remembered and a part of life after I have died.

5. Start making bonds now with the survivors. My relatives and friends know that I want my children to have a large support network once their mother has gone so they have started already. My cousins have taken my daughter to the movies, others have had her for the weekend, and her godmother, long out of touch, has been back to text and take her out. It is a huge relief off my mind as I know she will have people to discuss me with and in whom she can confide her feelings.

6. Call frequently, email, text. When you have had cancer as often as I have (another phrase I NEVER thought I would write!) it is no longer interesting to others. I have terminal cancer now but I feel quite alone sometimes. In the first batch I was cossetted and helped all the way through. It really is important to stay in touch.

7. And related to that one is practical help. When you are calling you can say, I am going to the shops, can I pick you up something? I HATE asking for help. I am an aggressively independent person and had any kind of dependency on anyone for anything. But, and it is a big but, I am also really tired, tired to the depths of my bones and I just can't seem to get it all done. The house is permanently untidy, the animals running out of food, supper needs to be cooked every night and every night I look longingly at cold tins of baked beans...

8. Feel free to research and find out alternative treatments but please don't force me to do them. You may be convinced that such and such a treatment is the ideal route but maybe my eyes are on something different. I have read loads, and so many people have suggested things to me but do I really want to cling on if all I can eat and drink is cockroach berries? Joke but you get the idea. Let me live as I want to: by all means suggest and discuss but don't lecture!

9. Give them some leeway. I asked my mother for a watercolour set this Christmas. I know that I won't use it constantly but it is something I want to try. I saw the usual ''what on earth'' in her eyes but I know it is my last chance now to try different activities. I need to be supported in that!

10. Thank you so much for reading this far.. I can't honestly think of a number 10 except to say to each and every one of you who read up to here, that you will be wonderful to that person no matter what you do, because you care, and after all, finally, that is what cancer, and ultimately Christmas, is all about.



Tigerwillow said...

#8 goes for anyone who is ill, even with a cold. I don't need to hear that sugar and the fact that I eat it, have it in the house is the WHOLE reason I am sick.

Thanks for this list. It validates what I have learned in the past year, and also reminds me that my brother had a very clear course he wanted to follow as he was dying, and he did. Who were we to usurp that?

Linda Ball said...

I'm calling one of my friends right this minute to let her know I'm still thinking about her in her long struggle.

alan said...

I lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer many years ago. Dad was a WW2 vet, a jack-of-all trades and master of most of them. He prided himself on being able to do whatever he needed to whenever he needed to.

He didn't take too many chemo treatments before other things ended them, but as he was driving home from one of them, he had a flat tire on the superhighway. Try as he did, he couldn't change it himself, he was too sick and too weakened. A trucker pulled his rig over and changed it for him...

I am still grateful to that faceless gentleman, wherever he is and hope that Karma has rewarded him many times over!

Thank you for all these wonderful thoughts; most of all thank you for being you!


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

These are superb tips, Minerva...Realy really helpful and so wise...

I LOVE that you want Watercolors for Christmas..I hope you will post any and all paintings you do, right here for all of us to see...!

We all must do what we need to do and I support and encourage you on this path...! You are, as always, dear Minerva, an inspiration!
I send you BIG HUGS!

Lyn said...

Dear sweet Minerva..I did read all the way and I do care deeply. When my sister was dying of cancer, I had to deal with it away from her and I fully understand the importance of that.
When I was with her, we were able to talk about everything she wanted me to do after she was gone and it has been a blessing I'll carry with me always. Savor the time with those who love you and understand what you need and they will be your star on the tree this Christmas.

kenju said...

Minerva, I am going to print this and have it ready to hand out to people in my life should I ever get cancer - or to remind me how I should act if someone close to me gets it. Thanks you for writing about this, as we all need to know.

Josephine said...


A great list. Your honesty is piercing, as ever.

I want to ask you a question about hope.

Maybe you might reply here, or maybe you might write about it - if it's something you would like to tackle. I leave it to you, naturally, my friend.

It is up to all of us - and our job - to deal with how we feel about what you are going through. For many who have visited your blog for a while you have become special, as we have read about your journey. Certainly, the fact that you have a considerable following after all this time suggests that No 6 isn't something that is affecting many of us - you (ie you, not the disease) remain, and will always be interesting, attractive and insightful in your words.

Naturally I - and I'm sure I speak for many here - hope for you. I realise that the statistics are stacked against you, and that the medical profession is suggesting that this thing is going to get you sooner rather than later. That may be true.

But I cannot stop hoping for you. Cannot stop thinking that you may beat it, or beat it for longer than you believe, or find some other outcome that is more positive than the naysayers...

I want to know about how I should express that hope to you? If I should? Does it help? Or does it sound like I am missing the point, or in denial somehow? Is acceptance...seeing the unfolding of events as you do, as you write of them...what helps most now?

I want to offer all the help I can in my words. And in the spirit of directness for which you are so well known, I thought I would ask you what you feel about this...

I hope you don't mind.


Jo x

Michael Manning said...

Well said, Minerva. My favorite word came to mind as I read your post and it's so important: "Supportiveness". (((HUGS))) to you! :) said...

I wish that I had learned a lot of what you've taught be before I lost my Mom, Min. I ache at the ways I screwed up and I pray that the ways I didn't outweigh them.

Most of all, thank you for teaching me.


Kat said...

Thank you so much for posting this. My Grandma is dying of cancer, and suggestions of what I can to do help are *always* good. Take care.

Terry said...

Good morning Minerva....well at least good morning from Canada!
You are on your lunch break at school in London.
I don't know why you should thank us for reading your post. I think that it is we that should be thanking you for writing it and pointing out to us what the real important things in life are..
Now look here at that Linda Ball calling one of her friends and I think it is you that put the idea into her heart to do that, and look at the way that Alan appreciates you!
I had better do the same thing myself... I mean write a few people that I have been neglecting lately..
I have been way too just caring about my own troubles the last two weeks. I will just have to smarten up!
If I were near to you , I would cook you a real good supper!
Yeh, cook but not bake. one of your other many friends would have to bake you a cake or pie because bake,,,I cannot!
And I would pick up those three naughty kitties, B.Bessy, Pickle and Poppy and just squeeze the life out of them!

I am not going to tell you to take care because I know you will but I am wishing for you a great day.

I surely do love that Minerva I surely do!....Love Terry

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting about this. I am someone who just can't figure out the "right" way to help someone without making them feel sad. Since you've started this, can you answer one other question for me?
How do you 1st approach someone who has found out they have cancer? I hate the thought of going to visit someone and bringing it up. What if they are having a "good" day and don't want to remember the bad?

Thanks for any insight.

bella said...

Thank-you for this.
There are no more words. Just thank-you.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Your advice is so practical. I wish my mother had done this when she knew she had little time left.

Frankie Dolan said...

This is a great list that I am sure will be referred to and help many for years to come.

Anonymous said...

You are truly Minerva, goddess of wisdom. Your list will help many. And you will NEVER be like that blackbird.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and also remember you're not dying of - you're living with. For now, for sure. Your words are so lovely. Please keep writing.

Heather said...

This was very Aunt has stage cancer...I still pray for you and check in on you from time to time.

Carolyn said...

You are an amazingly strong person and want you to know that you continue to touch people's lives and that you are inspirational. I am a hospice nurse and I am always searching for ways to better serve my patients aside from the bedside care and medications. Always searching for the right words or something meaningful to say. Just knowing that a person cares I think like you say is the most important thing any of us can do. None of us know from day to day what lies ahead for us. Thank you for being so brave and reaching out to others. Carolyn

Anonymous said...

My dad has pancreatic cancer at a high stage. I was looking for ways to cope with him dying,when the time comes, this was the first and the best blog, for this. Thank you for your tips and I hope you are feeling well.

kerryjackson said...

Great tips, my father had cancer many years ago now but I know for a fact the only thing you can do for someone is what they want. Love them and help them to to whatever they want even if if is going to the other side of the world or smoke till the end don't judge... love

kerry said...

My dad died a few years ago and I know that all you can do for someone is what they want. It doesn't matter if they want to climb Mt Everest or smoke till the end. Help them don't judge them, love them.

Anonymous said...

Great tips! I am trying to figure out how to support my father, and this was very useful. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these important suggestions. I am touched that you will be watercoloring this holiday season-- in my minds eye, that is how I see you. I dare say your loved ones will too.
May your life be filled with lovingkindness and your heart be free. You have many people who care for you. May you die as well as you live. With love, Sheila

The Islander said...

Hi Minerva, I,ve just found out one of my dear friends, who incidentally has been batterling this damned disease for a few years now, has finally been given the ultimate prognosis, but as her husband says, how long is a piece of string. Anyway I heard over the phone and she said she had e mailed her friends but didnt expect people to visit as its very personal. Just as you have said, I needed to go and give her a big hug then and there. Jumped in my car and dashed round there. She couldnt get over it, was overwelmed, but totally appreciated me being there. Sorry I have waffled, but my heart goes out to you and my friend and we as friends will be there till the end. Take care Minvera x

Anonymous said...

Today I'm going to meet someone on the verge of succumbing to cancer. I lost my mother too, to cancer. Your blog has helped me to understand that one can die with power..for herself and her near and dear ones. Death is a reality we all have to face, when you know you can't avoid it, it is better to go with dignity. Thank you.

Penny Hanuszak said...

I'm writing this comment on your Top 10 Tips not knowing whether your journey has ended. My sister-in-law has just begun hers and has been told she probably has at the most six months. My quest is to help and support her to her final destination. Your Top 10 will help me greatly as it makes me recognize this isn't "about me" it's totally about her and what she needs. Thank you so much I respect and honour you for sharing your life and insights.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much xxx

Delizah said...

Thank you for these tips, I am a childcare teacher to a 2yro boy whose 27yro mother is dying of stage 4, she also has a 4yro daughter and 10yro son...her husband is holding up as best as he can, but these tips have been helpful to me on how to be a bigger help to them all.

Some of my coworkers and I have decided to cook meals twice a week for them, even though she had said she didn't need any help, I'm leaning that she doesn't want to feel like her illness is causing us extra work, BUT perhaps she really doesn't want us to help with the meals? Maybe this takes away what she wants to be able to do while she's still alive for her family?

My question is, in our case, what would your suggestion be; to continue to cook the meals and deliver to them or to not cook as she said she didn't need any help with anything? To any reader as well who could help me figure this one out, because I really do want to be of some comfort and help.

Also, would buying her massage gift certificates be of any help or are there things that a person in her stage would not want to do or can't do (medical limits) due to chemo treatments?

I am sorry if I'm hurtful to anyone in the way I am asking, but the more help for my understanding is much appreciated.

My prayers are with you and your family, thank you for these tips again, I did a google search and up you popped! Thank YOU!!!

Big Hugs!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Minerva!! I just today found out my childhood friend is dying of Pancreatic cancer and it has spread to her lungs.. she is in the 4th stage of cancer. I am devastated.. beyound belief.. we grew up together.. we shared our babys together.. I was there when her Father passed.. she was there when my Father passed.. she is like my sister to me.. thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on how we can be there ... Thank you... Persik