Tips for Friends & Family

I’ve had some visitors and helpers in the past couple of months. I thought I’d post what I want/need to help others who will be helping, and others who might be going through this.

Cancer isn’t like having a cold. It doesn’t get better by sleeping all the time, so please don’t expect me to be napping all day. While I’m not up for a big gym workout, but I can get a short walk here and there, or doing some things at home help. I am on an intermittent leave from work, which means that when I’m able to work, I do, and when I can’t, I don’t. This is hard for me. I’m not used to not being able to focus on documents or tasks.

I don’t have the energy I used to have, and I don’t have the energy I’m used to having. Some days this is frustrating. Some days I don’t know I’m tired until I am, and when that happens, I need to be able to be home and settling down or taking a nap. Some days I just need to sit quietly on the couch and do nothing.

This isn’t to say I don’t have up and down days – I do. Some days I can get up and clean the house or go out for the day, and some days I just can’t. On the days that I can’t, I do some light reading or similar tasks at home.

Out and About
Chemo compromises my immune system. Seriously enough that if I get a cold, it could kill me. I can’t be around lots of people. I wear a surgical mask out in public as much as possible, and use a ton of hand sanitizer. I time my trips to the store (when I’m going on my own) to times when it’s less busy so that I can avoid being around strangers. This is especially important during cold and flu season.

I can go an entire week without leaving the house and that doesn’t bother me much. Really. It doesn’t. Well, as long as I have food in the house, anyway. The risk of what could happen if I get the flu is enough to cure me of cabin fever. Sometimes, just going to the mailbox is enough.

I do, however, usually have a bunch of appointments right before and after my chemo treatments – acupuncture, chiropractor, dentist, etc. They are like any other time I need to leave the house. I take my mask and I don’t linger around groups of people or strangers, and especially kids.

Eating Out
Even before cancer I wasn’t eating out much. While I was traveling, I would to go to the store and get some cereal for breakfast, soup and sandwich fixings for lunches, and I would try to eat something sensible for dinner. Aside from the fact that cooking at home is a lot less expensive, it’s still a lot about avoiding being around other people. Call this paranoia if you want, but I also don’t trust that everyone working in a restaurant of any kind is always wearing a face mask or gloves, especially if they’re sick. I know some places don’t allow the to wear gloves or masks, and I know some people can’t afford to stay home as much as I wish they would. It’s up to me to take care of myself, so please try to understand if I am not interested in going out to eat with anyone.

If I do go to a restaurant, I need to sit as far away from other people as I can and I will ask the host/hostess for this kind of seating. If they seat someone next to me that I think is sick, I will want to leave or be re-seated. I’m not being a jerk. I really, really, really can’t get sick while going through this treatment. Please support me in this.

I can utilize the Safeway and Fred Meyer delivery services as well as Instacart when needed. I sometimes like to browse the store in case there’s something I want or I forgot to put on my list. What works well is when someone can make a run to the store for simple things like bread and milk. What works best is a divide an conquer approach – go to the store with me, take half my list and we meet at the front checkouts. This minimizes the time in the store, and we get some time to hang out.

Visitors and Socializing
I am a people person, but I *can* stay home alone for a week, even though I do get a little stir crazy sometimes. If you’re interested in visiting, I have some rules.

  1. If you’re sick, think you’re getting sick or have been around sick people, please think twice and stay home til you’re feeling better.
  2. As much as I’d like to, I learned the hard way over Christmas break that I can do very limited stints as a tour guide. If you’d like to visit and go see the sights, I’m happy to help point out some cool things, but you’ll need to get yourself there and back. Google Maps and Waze work great here.
  3. I’m cool with trying new foods. Mostly. There are only a few things I really don’t eat. If you have a new recipe to try, I’m probably game. Just ask.
  4. Because of the limitations on going out and about, my ability to watch movies is now limited to cable on-demand or Amazon. Both work fine for me. I’m thinking about trying Redbox. Otherwise, movie theaters are pretty much out til next year.

What Do I Need? 
Well, I’m glad you asked. No, really. I am! My needs change depending on where I am in the chemo cycle. If there’s nothing specific when you ask, gift cards are always helpful.

About Pink Ribbon Road

This blog is about receiving and living with a breast cancer diagnosis.
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1 Response to Tips for Friends & Family

  1. Renee Gjerde says:

    Not going stir crazy is so much easier these days with digital access to so much. Thanks for the tips. Those can help me in the future if someone I know here gets cancer. A couple have, and recovered.

    I am getting a bit into my genealogy these days. Mona got a gene test and through her links to others I found a 4-6 cousin in Ramsey, MN. We have had some contact via epost. I am trying to figure out our connection. It is a fun puzzle to work on. I still have your family information, but just haven’t had the energy to work on it. I need to go to the Riksarkiv to get some advice on which sources to check. I haven’t forgotten though, and the info is sitting in a folder just waiting. I bought the farm book that is where one of my relatives came from so I can look things up in there at home. Sigurd’s aunt is going to help me because using the book can be confusing, with so many simlilar names. More on that later.

    I hope the new phase of treatments is going as well as it should and that your team is doing their job. Just heard a radio Ted Talk which covers the subject of how diseases will be treated in the future. One of the experts said that there isn’t enough coordinating of healthcare givers in many situations and that there needs to be one person overseeing the whole picture. He said that cancer patients are ahead of the game because they are assigned a team and that there is a plan to follow. I pray that your team is competent and sees the little things and can quickly jump on them before they get to be big things. Unless, of course, the big thing is getting cured, which is the whole point. 🙂 May the days not be too long, and the nights filled with sleep. Love, Mary


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