Helping Others to Help You

Remember it is perfectly normal to not be positive all the time or contributing to your day to day life during this time.  Listen to your body, allow yourself to feel those emotions and, (hardest one of all) ask for help.

Many women are used to being the main or only caregiver in their family, and it can be very difficult to ask others for help. It may also be very difficult for those around you to know how to help, although this is what they really want to do.

The kind of help and support you need will vary depending on your physical and emotional needs, your closeness to the person offering to help, and even at what stage you are in your cancer journey. Again, there is lots of advice on the internet from credible sources like the Canadian Cancer Society or Canadian Breast Cancer Network on relationships, how to support someone diagnosed with cancer, emotional supports and more. See below for some general suggestions for you and your caregivers or supporters.

Asking for Help & Support

  • Where you can, be clear and specific about what you need. For example, it’s better to say “It would be great if you could take Ryan to soccer training on Tuesdays” rather than “Help with Ryan would be great.”
  • Remember that people are offering help because they care about you and it is something they really want to do.
  • Ask someone to be your “secretary” to answer emails or phone messages or write a group email on how you are doing to friends and family that don’t live in your community or help you with filling out forms.
  • Keep a running list of “To Do’s” that you or your caregiver can refer to when people ask.  For example: pick up groceries, come for tea and they bring the tea, vacuuming and dusting living room, take me for a walk around the block or on the land, cook a freezer meal, have the children over for a play date, tell me a joke or funny story, offer to do laundry or dishes today, help put the kids to bed…

Do you have tips for what was helpful for you? Please let us know, email us here.

Giving Help & Support

  • Be a good listener; let the person talk without interrupting or prying or offering unsolicited advice.
  • Don’t offer more than you can manage, and if you do offer help, make sure you follow through with the offer.
  • Be creative in what you can offer, sometimes it is the simple things that can brighten a day for someone.
  • Ask what you can help with and don’t assume what a person needs or can tolerate.  For example: perfumes/scented items can be hard to tolerate during chemotherapy treatments.
  • Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing, just say up front you are not sure to say and let them take the lead. Sometimes just being with them quietly is okay too.
  • Learn a bit about the cancer in advance to help with understanding what they might be going through.
  • And, give them the safe space to be sad if needed.

The Canadian Cancer Society has good advice for partners, family and friends on how to be a caregiver or support a person with cancer.