"How can I help?"
“Let me know if you need anything!”
Many of us have sincerely said this to someone near and dear, and have heard those same words too. I have found myself on both sides.
You don’t have to set up a go fund me account for someone or spend lots of money but if you know someone who gets diagnosed with cancer, chronic/long-term disease, injured, loses someone close to them, giving birth to a baby, or something else and you sincerely want to let them know to “let me know if you need anything” and you want to support them... consider being a bit more explicit about how you want to help.
Now that the “let me know... anything” phrase has been offered/received, follow through on it. My experience is that after the offer, I don’t get asked for help or I don’t ask for help due to a multitude of reasons. Many of us going through the above don’t feel comfortable asking for help whether they know they need it or not, feel that they/their family can handle it on their own, are ashamed to ask for specific help bc they don’t know how much the relative/friend/co-worker really means it, anxiety over asking, or at what level of help, and so many other reasons.
Today marks SIX years since my Hodgkin’s diagnosis, and I can’t tell you the times people have asked me to let them know what they can do to help. I can tell you that outside of immediate family/boyfriend, I don’t think I’ve ever asked for help from someone who has offered to help in a specific way. I know I have so many people who care about me and sincerely want to help but maybe don’t know how, and I wasn’t comfortable enough to ask for specific help. I also know that I can do far better when I let someone I care about to please let me know if they need anything. I can offer specific help or go ahead and do some of the easier things on the list below.
Again, let’s try to be explicit when offering to help or asking for help to make it easier on everyone! I hope this post helps people on both sides of the “I care about you / I want to help” fence.
Here are just a few ideas of how you can offer to help someone or surprise them, and for those getting asked how they can be helped/supported.
Make some freezer meals or come over with ingredients and cook a meal(s).
Gift card to uber eats, Postmates, or seamless (if they have one of these in their area).
Drop off some takeout on a day you know is going to already be exhausting.
Offer to watch kids or take kids for a day/night/weekend.
Send their favorite flowers, plants, or succulents.
Run some errands.
Take them to an appointment.
Take them to run errands.
Clean their home.
Help with their laundry (even just once).
Pay someone else to clean or do laundry.
Go visit them even if you gotta fly.
Take them to watch a movie or go to their home/bring them to your home to watch a movie and just hang out. Cancer/disease/injury/etc. can feel very isolating to the person going through it.
iTunes/Amazon gift card for a few movie rentals, music, or books.
Are they crafty? Find something fun and easy to do while stuck spending too much time at doctor’s offices/treatment.
Pick up some groceries for them.
Help with walking or taking care of their pet(s), or get someone off Rover to help.
Have someone clean their car or do an oil change, or do those things yourself, if capable.
Make up some “snack packs” for long days at the hospital or doctors office (for them or whoever is with them) - include some healthy stuff but some sweets too.
Gift card for a massage or send a massage therapist to their home for an hour massage.
Do they garden? Help tend their garden or flowers bc they might be too exhausted/stressed to manage it right now.
Help with lawn care.
This list is by no means complete but I do hope it will help people who want to help someone near and dear and those who receive offers of help. Feel free to take this list, modify it for yourself, and post it for your family, friends, and co-workers to see ways they can help you. Also, remember you can use a few of these ideas along with your offer to help that person going through a difficult time. And please share any good ideas that I should add to the above list!
And… I am honored to share my story with Stand Up 2 Cancer! Go check out all the great ways they are making a change in the fight against cancer.
Ps. DAMN! Six years ago feels like yesterday but also feels like forever ago. I can’t begin to show my appreciation for everyone who has shown me love, support, and positivity through it all - seriously, you are all ROCKSTARS. Just a little update on me and my life in DC: I’m starting a new drug clinical trial in the coming days while waiting to hopefully get the NIH Car-T therapy trial. I’m going to try to travel less so that I can save for other travel and also to dedicate more time to making and enhancing DC friendships. But expect some camping excursions since I can comfortably camp in the back of my Subaru, and let's be honest, a good flight deal will likely pop up that I won’t be able to say no to. Have a happy October!