October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While there are many ways to get involved and show support — participating in a race, fundraiser donations, etc. — those close to patients undergoing chemotherapy may want to assist on a more personal level. When breast cancer hits close to home, one of the best ways to help is by supporting a mom through her chemotherapy treatments. But what can you do to make a difference?
Approximately 1 in 8 women in this country will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, so chances are, you know someone who is or has been affected by it. If you’re looking for ideas on what you can do to help, check out this list of nine ways to support a mom during chemo.
Set Up a Meal Train for the Family
Keeping the family fed is a great way to take one more worry off a mom’s plate. Use the free website Meal Train to set up a schedule that lets friends and family sign up to deliver meals.
Accompany Mom to Chemotherapy
Sometimes it helps to just have a friend sit with you during what can be a painful, scary and sometimes even boring process.
Call Her on the Phone
If distance is an issue, make sure to talk to mom often. When you do call, make it a point to talk about normal stuff. “Don’t fall off the face of the earth because you’re afraid or nervous to talk about the cancer,” says Elizabeth Winberry, a licensed professional counselor and therapist in Colorado, formerly from New Jersey, who watched her father battle leukemia. Having someone to listen, even if you can’t provide a solution, is still helpful.
Hire a Cleaning or Landscaping Service
Time and energy are two things a mom going through chemotherapy may be short on. Try Continental Maid Service or Total Home Cleaning if you are in northern New Jersey, or check out Dial-A-Mop in the South Jersey region. If the lawn needs mowing or raking, see if you can enlist some neighborhood kids to pitch in and get it done.
Do Some Laundry
Another task that’s high on every mom’s to-do list is laundry… because it never stops! Next time you go over to the house, throw a load of laundry in the wash and don’t leave until it’s folded and put away. Or, if you know mom is going to be out at doctor’s appointments for the day, grab the dirty clothes that morning and return them cleaned in the evening.
Make a Chemo Care Package
Find a cute tote bag and fill it with items that will take mom’s mind off her illness. We recommend things like crossword or sudoku books, soft socks, a cozy blanket, hard candies, adult coloring books, headphones and tissues.
Help with Child Care
Offer to drive the kids to their activities or have them over for play dates. “Having people come play and entertain my son… knowing he was cared for or having fun gave me such peace of mind,” said breast cancer survivor Erin Kane of Sewell. If it’s the summer, you could even start a fund to send the kids to summer camp. Any extra time a mom has to recuperate from chemotherapy is definitely welcomed, plus it gives the kids a change of scenery.
Send Gift Cards for Restaurants or Gas
This is an especially good item if the trek to the hospital is a long one. A gift card makes it convenient to eat on-the-go without having to pack food each time.
Encourage your Kids to Reach Out to Her Kids
A mom battling breast cancer will affect the whole family, especially the kids. Suggest that your kids do something kind, like have her kids over for a play date, draw them a picture or even pick out a small gift for them. This lets them know that people are thinking about them, too.
Finally, remember that cancer can be a long battle. “A lot of people are there at the beginning of the diagnosis wanting to help, but they quickly fade away,” said Vicky Gorczyk, a Scotch Plains native (now living in Virginia Beach) who helped a friend dealing with cancer. “Stay by her side throughout the entire process.”
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