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A week ago my sister died after a long journey with breast cancer.
It was a journey that she, her husband and kids, and our family took with some wonderful support from friends and the community. Want to know what they did that was so helpful?
From a very pragmatic view, it was incredibly helpful to have friends and others in the community offer to drop off cooked meals that she, her husband, and her kids would enjoy. It took an enormous burden off of my sister, her husband, and our extended family. We signed up to cook meals as well, but it was very helpful to take turns doing it so we could spend more time with her.
It was also really helpful to have her kid’s friend’s families offer to take the kids overnight or out on some fun activity. It enabled them to be kids, have fun, and put the worry aside for a few hours.
We also were thrilled to have people offer to do fun things one-on-one with the kids. They took the time to find something to do that the kids would enjoy. Again, it was so important for them to continue to have some normalcy and fun in their lives.
The school staff was very caring and understood when the kids were showing signs of stress. They had someone supportive to talk with outside of the family.
My brother-in-law showed his true colours by lovingly caring for my sister at home until four days before her death. He never asked for help and took on an enormous emotional, physical, and spiritual challenge providing everything she needed.
That’s not to say that he didn’t need help. Offering and sometimes insisting he take some time away to do something he enjoyed or just take a break was important. In hindsight, I think it was something we should have offered more often.
Some amazingly kind-hearted people took it upon themselves to organize fundraisers to help my sister and her family with the costs of the medication and treatment not covered by their health plan. My brother-in-law was also able to use some of this money to support the family as he took a lot of time away from work.
My sister really enjoyed times when friends came over singly or in small groups to laugh, share stories, update her on their lives, reminisce, or just to be there to listen. They didn’t have to worry about what to say. Just being there was important to her.
Other really helpful things people did was giving my sister foot, back, and scalp massages, playing music she loved, giving her cards of friendship telling her what made her so important in their lives, changing her bedding and clothing to help her feel refreshed, bringing her her favourite foods, and doing some new age healing ceremonies that she really believed in.
Providing cancer family support is so important. What have you done or what could you do to support someone who has cancer and/or her/his family? I’d love to hear your comments!