When someone you care about is diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (RCC), it can feel overwhelming. You want to help, but you might not know what to do or where to start.
Your friend or family member may not know how to ask for the help they need. It’s important to stay informed and aware so that you can offer assistance when you sense it’s needed.
Here are five ways that you can support a loved one through their cancer diagnosis and treatment.
1. Be there.
Help doesn’t always have to be a tangible thing. Sometimes your presence alone is enough.
Check in with your loved one as often as you can. Call. Send them a text or an email. Tag them in a picture on social media. Visit them at home, or take them out for dinner. Let your friend know you’re thinking of them, and that you’re there for them.
When you talk to your loved one, really listen. Be sympathetic when they relay stories of tests or treatments they’ve undergone, and be understanding when they say they feel overwhelmed.
Ask what would help them most. Do they need help with their workload? Do they need money to pay for their treatment? Or do they just need you to listen?
Follow up. At the end of each call or visit, let your loved one know when you’ll be back in touch, and follow through with your promise.
2. Help out.
A cancer diagnosis can alter someone’s entire life. Suddenly, every day is filled with doctor visits, treatments, and managing bills. When your loved one is in the middle of treatment, he or she can feel too tired and sick to get anything done. During this time, work, family, and other responsibilities have to go on the back burner.
Your loved one may not ask for your help — they might not even realize they need it. Therefore, it’s important to offer them help in advance. Try to anticipate what they might need. Here are a few ways to help:
- Offer to run weekly errands, like grocery shopping or picking up clothes at the dry cleaner.
- Bring over a few home-cooked meals for them to freeze and eat during the week.
- Set up an online fundraising page to help cover their medical expenses.
- Create a schedule organizing the efforts of other friends, family members, and neighbors. Set up days and times for people to help with tasks like cleaning the house, taking the kids to school, driving to medical appointments, or picking up prescriptions at the drugstore.
Once you’ve promised to do something, make sure to follow through.
Ask for your loved one’s permission before starting your to-do list. You don’t want to make an entire month’s worth of meals, only to find out that they don’t like anything you’ve cooked.
3. Make them laugh.
Laughter is powerful medicine. It can help your loved one get through the most difficult days. Bring over a funny movie to watch together. Buy goofy gifts from the novelty store, like silly socks, giant glasses, or an off-color party game. Send a silly card. Or just sit and reminisce about some crazy experiences you’ve had together in better days.
Also, be prepared to cry together. Cancer can be a deeply painful experience. Acknowledge and sympathize when your friend feels down.
4. Send a thoughtful gift.
Visiting your loved one in person isn’t the only way to let them know you’re thinking about them. Send a bouquet of flowers. Ask all of their friends or coworkers to sign a card. Pick up a little gift, like a box of chocolates or a gift basket with their favorite books or movies. How much money you spend isn’t important. What matters most is that you show the person you’re thinking of them.
5. Be an ally in your loved one’s care.
Navigating the maze of cancer treatments can feel overwhelming — especially to someone who’s just starting their cancer journey. Sometimes, doctors and nurses don’t have time to explain the full range of options available to their patients. Offer to step in and help out.
Offer to join them on their doctor’s visits. Offer to drive them. In addition to helping them get to and fro, your company will be greatly appreciated for emotional support. It also helps to have an extra set of ears to listen to and remember the things the doctors and nurses talk about.
You can research cancer treatments or assist your loved one in finding a specialist or support group in their area. If they need to travel out of state for care, help make airline and hotel arrangements.
If your loved one hasn’t been successful in their treatment, help them look into clinical trials on ClinicalTrials.gov. Clinical trials test out new treatments that aren’t yet available to the general public. They can give people who’ve run out of treatment options a greater chance at life.