Updates on Kathy's battle with breast cancer.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spreading Sunshine and Gladness--Ideas for Rendering Service

Many Happy Returns on the day of thy birth, may sunshine and gladness be given…. Those words are the start of our family birthday poem.  Today is my birthday.  I didn’t realize it would be an emotional event, but I am SO thankful to have this birthday.  So much happened during my year of age 50.  One year ago, I had no idea that two weeks later my life would change so much.  This is the only birthday where I can say I definitely feel one year older and many years wiser.  I’ve learned so much about turning my will over to God, and trusting in Him.  I’ve also learned so much from others and their outpouring of support and love.  I have definitely felt the many gifts of sunshine and gladness that have been given from so many wonderful people.  My energy levels continue to improve.  I'm just returning from a wonderful celebration trip with Scott, celebrating the end of cancer, our birthdays, and our 30th anniversary.  More pictures are at the end of this post.

Service Ideas 

Many have asked for ideas to help someone they know who’s going through cancer. Everyone handles this news in different ways.  Some choose to retreat and come out when it’s all over with, dealing with it all privately.  Obviously, I am one that deals with it in a more inclusive way.  Regardless of how one chooses to handle it, I think that acknowledging to the person in some way and letting them know you are aware of their situation and that you are thinking of them and praying for them is really helpful.   

A few have asked,“What was the most helpful thing someone did for you?”  In thinking about this, my answer would have to be the sum total of many people doing just one thing resulted in a great and lasting impact of support.  I really feel that each person was inspired to reach out and do whatever he/she felt impressed to do to give me a lift when it was needed.  There were so many thoughtful things done randomly along the entire journey.  It was a blessing that everyone did not reach out and respond in the first few weeks.  There was no coordinator of who should send a note or do something kind on certain days, but I think by following the promptings of the spirit, kindnesses were coordinated from heaven, with a steady flow of love expressed and extended along the entire journey.  Some of the most uplifting messages were from people who I didn’t even know very well.  It was touching that they would reach out and join in on the many comforts that were provided.  I’ve consulted with others who have been down similar roads for additional ideas.  So, in no particular order, what follows is a long list of ideas that might spark some inspiration or a prompting of something you can do for someone else.  Some of these are applicable for someone going through cancer, but most would work well for serving anyone—because we all need a lift at times.    

As a recipient of service, it was hard to ask for help, though I did learn to do it in dire circumstances.  It was much easier to agree to an offering of service, or simply welcome a gesture that arrived at the door.  Our church service coordinator would call or text and say, “We’d like to bring meals in for your last four weeks.”  It was then easy for me to say, “Thank you, 3 days a week would be really helpful, and these are the days that would help most….”  When someone simply told me what they were going to do, it was easy to accept, and I was comfortable tweaking the offer so it was still beneficial, but within my comfort zone.  If your group has a meal sign up, and it’s full before you get a chance to sign up, feel free to choose any day not listed and call and say, “I’m bringing dinner tonight.  You can save it for another day if you don’t need it for tonight, or freeze it for later.”  Freezer meals that were ready to use as needed provided comfort and peace of mind, knowing we were set for anything unexpected.

Though people have sincere desires, when someone says, “Call me if you need anything,” when a need does arise it is hard to remember all of the people that made that offer, and you’re unsure what tasks they were really offering.  It was easier when it was phrased specifically—“I would love to help with rides for you or your kids,” or even easier to accept, “I’d love to give the kids a ride to and from_______ today, I’ll be by around…..” Also, feel free to follow up on offers you’ve made.  One friend told me she had really wanted to drive me to radiation and hadn’t heard from me yet, and wanted to make sure she had a turn.  That made me feel like I was doing her a favor!   

Prayers – constant specific prayers for the person are definitely felt.  Tell the person you are praying for them.  Several friends shared that their children prayed for me in every prayer they offered.  That was especially touching to hear. 
Text messages, especially on key days, just letting them know you are thinking of them.  They also let you know that they were aware of the happenings in your treatment.   
Facebook messages or emails, short, quick notes that say you are thinking about them. 
Letter or card in the mail.
Plant fresh flowers in a pot on their front porch (perhaps replacing the dead, neglected ones).
Water their plants inside or outside.
Plant bulbs in their yard that will come out in the spring.
Stop by and pull weeds out of their flowerbeds or garden.
Drop off items that are easy to pack for school lunches, or grab for snacks.
Share a favorite book (used & loaned work great, be clear about “loaned” books so they know to return them—and if anyone needs any back from me, please let me know!) 
Soft socks
New PJ’s
A soft pillowcase or soft sheets.
Send or drop off a single favorite item or a box or bag with family members’ favorites and note describing each item—lotion, a book, snacks, a pen.
Have kids draw pictures and make get well notes (these were SO cute and fun!)
Blank note cards or blank thank you cards.
Book of stamps.
A pre-paid post office flat rate box for use with anything they might need to mail.
Plate of cookies or brownies (ideally, cancer patients may be trying to minimize sugar intake, but sometimes a home made treat hit a needed spot, plus family members always appreciate a treat)
A hand-tied fleece blanket for keeping warm on medical visits.
A freezer meal with instructions, these were great for use as needed.
A carton of blue berries, bag of raw almonds, asparagus, or other super food.
Ingredients to make a power smoothie.
Humorous book or note card.
A pot of soup that can be reheated.
A loaf of homemade bread.
A glass jar filled with small uplifting quotes to pull out and read individually as needed (mine had tiny envelopes made by hand of different scrapbook papers, to open on days I needed a boost.)
Mail a photo you took and let them know you’re thinking of them.
Email link to an inspirational video or message.
Call and offer a ride for an activity their child has.
Take pictures of their kids at any events and email a copy (especially ones they may miss, but they may be at the event, but too tired to take pictures).
Pass along any tips that might help, especially if you’ve found them helpful.
Miralax for constipation (a friend sent this, knowing that my anti-nausea meds would cause a problem, and doctors had not warned me of it!)
Lemon drops or peppermints help with nausea.
Favorite magazine you enjoyed and you’re finished with.
Mealtrain.com for coordinating meals as needed
Quick meal kit (open assorted cans and dump them in a pot).
Drop off dinner the day BEFORE surgery, so they can spend their time getting ready for the hospital and recovery.
Run a race or event, and tell them or send a photo of their name on your back
Celebrate milestones with balloons or fresh flowers, or just drop some off on a random day.
Drop off paper plates or paper cups to help with dishes on hard days.
Call or text when you’re headed to the grocery store or Costco/Sams to see if they need anything picked up.
Library run phone call, “I’m headed to the library, need anything picked up or returned?”
Blank journal
Call ahead and say, “I have an hour, what’s a project I can work on?”
Movie day—come over and watch a movie together
Refillable Water bottle (I've loved the Brita filter water bottle)
Chemotherapy specific:  Many chemotherapy treatments result in hair loss. 
Soft seamless hat for sleeping (bald heads get cold), knit or crochet a hat (every stitch felt like an expression of love), anti-nausea lollipops, big earrings, fun hat, scarf, bandana, Pro-care type toothpaste (with extra fluoride, chemo is hard on teeth).
Radiation specific:  Offer a ride to radiation.  (I regret not arranging more rides to radiation, because time together in the car visiting was a real treat, and I missed out on visits with several people that had hoped to drive me at least once, if not weekly), SPF 50 shirt (with radiation, your radiation area can’t be in the sun for a year, and after that, it should be very limited and you should always use at least 50 SPF sunscreen), a link to a website that sells SPF clothing (Lands End, Sierra Trading Post), Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 55 (recommended by a doctor and I loved it). 

Again, this list is just to give you some specific ideas that might trigger something you are inspired to do for someone else.  You don’t have to spend money to show you care.  A text message, email, or in-person comment of support really makes a difference.  I wish I could list every person and every gift of love that was shared, but I’m certain I would miss several (especially because memory problems really do occur!).  Please know that any kind gesture shared with someone else will lighten their load and help them feel loved.  Please share any ideas I can add to this list, and check back for additions!

1 comment:

  1. Happy belated birthday! What a great post! These are all such great ideas that apply to so many service situations even beyond cancer. I'm making mental notes for visiting teaching. You're going to be on a cancer-coping speaking circuit soon. :)