What Can I Do to Help?: Practical Ideas for Family and Friends from Cancer's Frontline
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Deborah Hutton’s discovery that the niggling cough which had been troubling her for a couple of months was actually an aggressive lung cancer marked the beginning of a brand-new learning curve – a personal odyssey that taught her to let go of her super-competent I-can-handle-it-myself persona and gratefully accept the huge amount of help beamed at her by her close-knit family and “world class” network of friends and neighbours. From her own experience and out of her conversations with fellow members of the “Cancer Club” comes this anthology of supremely practical examples of ways in which friends and family, often themselves reeling from the shock of the diagnosis and feeling just as helpless and at a loss to know what to do, can make a real, substantial difference. “What can I do to help?” you ask. Well, stand by, because the answer is “Plenty”.
that I didn’t even understand myself. I’d say things like, ‘I’ve just got to have this marginal clearance.’ And I pulled away from them. Rather than being open and honest, there was this distance; it was my way of protecting myself from their fear and distress. Nazira Visram WORDS AND QUESTIONS TO AVOID ‘Riddled’/‘terminal’ (Implies the end is near. Try ‘advanced’, ‘chronic’ or ‘recurrent’, and then only if absolutely necessary.) ‘God rest her soul’ (After story of best friend’s
months previously, rejigged her social arrangements at the last minute to come and pick our shell-shocked family off the floor the evening after we had broken the news to them. For them to see a living, breathing, well person coming through the door, looking fabulous, and chatting and answering their questions before nipping off to a dinner party elsewhere, did more to lift their spirits than any amount of reassurance we could have provided. While this was well timed and fantastically
October, I have never (a) slept so badly, (b) spent so much time at the hairdresser and (c) been so popular. I am sick of being everyone’s favourite cripple – you wouldn’t believe the number of acquaintances who suddenly want to be your best friend and feel they are entitled to regular, blow-by-blow accounts of your emotional/psychological state. ‘But Ruth, how ARE you?’ they ask, meaningfully. Rubber-neckers. Ruth Picardie, Before I Say Goodbye TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER Sometimes friends may
similar situations. Or your friend may be provoked by some experience of their own to start something that (with your help and enthusiasm and support) snowballs and snowballs and snowballs… Big C was conceived one cold, wet afternoon looking out of the window of Ward 8 South at Charing Cross Hospital. I was a gypsy, with my clothes in my suitcase, constantly travelling to the hospital and back to my family in Norfolk or my wife’s family in Kent to recuperate for a few days before the next
being gobsmacked at how many people I was lined up to see within the first five days). Someone at one remove from the shock and horror is in a better position to remember what is said (‘The serious information slithered around in my brain like mercury, ungraspable,’ wrote Kate Carr in It’s Not Like That, Actually), to ask the doctors to clarify what they are saying (and, if necessary, to translate medicalese into plain English) and, after the consultation is over, to offer another view of what