Twenty-One Things You Can Do for Someone with Cancer

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When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my friends and family rallied around me. Here are just a few of the things people did that still make me tear up when I think about them:

  1. My husband cooked a huge soup on the day I went for chemo so that I'd have plenty of fluids to flush the toxic stuff out of my system.
  2. One of my friends, who knew I wanted to keep up my strength, made me climb stairs with her for half an hour twice a week. She insisted that it was she who needed the exercise and the moral support of a companion. How could I refuse?
  3. Another friend sent me books that she had screened to make sure they contained no disturbing cancer references.
  4. To prevent and treat side effects, I had to take a bewildering variety of medications for several days before and after chemo, so a friend bought me a pill organizer and made a chart for each day.
  5. An acquaintance who had alopecia came over with half a dozen wigs and helped me try them on.
  6. A friend who had been through chemo went with me to the wig salon the day I got my head shaved and wore my own wig for the first time.
  7. Eight months later, three friends took me out for dinner the night I stopped wearing my wig—and told me over and over how great I looked with my sparse, quarter-inch-long hair.
  8. Another friend took me scarf shopping.
  9. Another took me hat shopping.
  10. A colleague bought me an accordion file and some folders and helped me set up a system for keeping track of doctors' bills, insurance claims, pathology reports, prescription instructions and so forth. Several years later, I still use it.
  11. My son gave me Neulasta injections after each of the first four rounds of chemo. I was squeamish, and he had confidence from injecting his cat with saline solution.
  12. My daughter gave me mani-pedis when my nails grew back after chemo had knocked them out.
  13. A couple of women who had been diagnosed before me told me what to expect and what questions to ask my doctors.
  14. A colleague brought me eat-in-the-office lunch every day when she went out to get hers.
  15. Many friends invited me to movies and other events—anything to fill my mind with something besides cancer.
  16. Friends visited me in the hospital, picked me up from surgery and accompanied me to doctor's appointments and chemo.
  17. A fellow survivor who won an eight-day Caribbean cruise for two in a fund-raising competition shared the prize with me, and I went.
  18. One of my husband's co-workers helped me research my treatment regimen.
  19. A friend knitted an enormous bra with sequined nipples and gave it to me.
  20. Another friend gave me a religious medallion. I'm not religious, but I carry it in my purse anyway.
  21. Yet another friend bought me silk pajamas to wear in the hospital after my mastectomy.

And there were many other acts of kindness and generosity—some by strangers I met along the way. What did people do for you that made your path a little smoother?


Megan Rutherford

Megan is a volunteer on SHARE's Breast Cancer Helpline.