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.