Following my recent post on preventing foot in mouth disease, a friend suggested that I highlight words and actions that people with cancer would find encouraging or helpful. As a ‘newby’ to cancer I thought it’d be wise to seek feedback from others who’ve had the disease for some time. So I posted on a lung cancer survivors forum and asked for feedback. It’s hard to summarise the comments because everyone is different, but I’d like to highlight just few things that resonated with me:
Be willing to listen.
Seek to understand by asking questions.
Humour is a wonderful balm.
Most helpful was a reply I received from Lori Hope, who has Stage IV lung cancer like myself. She is an author and blogger who has written extensively on the experience of having cancer and caring for those who have the disease. I’ve just begun to work through her writings and have already found many wonderful insights. If this is something you’re keen to understand more fully, then I recommend you check out her website or blog. I’ve ordered a copy of her book, Help Me Live, and I anticipate drawing on her ideas for encouraging those around me. Here’s a taste of her wisdom in an acrostic that I grabbed from her website:
H ope – Keep it positive; no horror stories; highly suggestible.
E mpathy – Imagine what your friend is going through; don’t pity, which implies rank.
L isten – Your friend may need to talk; but don’t try to force them.
P ermission – Ask before giving advice, sharing info, visiting.
M ake it about them – It’s not about you, what you think they should do or feel.
E scape – Help them escape through humor, light media.
L ove – Say I love you if you do; what people with cancer said they most wanted to hear from family and friends.
I nitiate contact – Check in, leave messages saying you don’t need to call me back; send cards (#1 form of social support women said they wanted); visit (after asking permission).
V alidate their feelings – Say things like, “That must be difficult”; don’t minimize feelings by saying they just have to think positively; don’t deny their feelings by saying they shouldn’t feel sad/angry, etc.
E ducate yourself – Who is the person with cancer? Educate yourself about the disease; about what your friend enjoys and needs and wants, including their interests.