If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you. ― A.A. Milne
We are weeks into a friend’s cancer diagnosis. It sucks, and what sucks more is that there are three thousand miles between us. These two have always fought hard…for their family and for their lives. In fact, they are veterans in the battle against cancer; but I want to shoulder up with them on the front lines. With every week that passes my longing increases to be there with them as they walk this path.
And I will be….in a few weeks. But in the meantime, I’ve been scouring the web, talking with survivors and gathering as much information as possible on ways to touch my friends from a distance. If you read this post a couple of weeks ago, you know that for me, love is action. Close on the heels of my longing to DO something is my fear that it will be the wrong thing or I’ll do it at the wrong time. (Case in point, mailing a candy bar in the middle of August without proper cold packs.) If I’m not careful, I will do nothing. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this quest to do the right thing.
First and always, pray. I know…it sounds so cliché. But when asked, so often that is the first answer from a cancer patient. As a friend, you’ll often know exactly the needs and pray specifically for those. There are times that I have no words of my own but I need to speak them (they are sort of my thing), so I pray verses from Colossians 1, Philippians 1 and the Lord’s Prayer. These are the prayers of the saints!
Send a card. Don’t fret too much about the card itself, but focus on the words. When I asked a survivor friend, she said “I’m a Words girl so the personal hand written messages, even from people I didn’t know very well, carried great meaning.” And don’t be afraid to use humor. You know your friend best – if they are playful, celebrate that with fun cards and inside jokes.
If your friend and/or their caregiver likes to stop by Chick fil A or Starbucks for a treat, send a gift card to cover the cost of a visit and add a corny message like “If I could pop in with your favorite treat, I’d be there in a minute. Next one’s on me, and there’s lots of love sent with it.” Double smiles if they enjoy your goofy humor!
Gift cards to cover convenience meals come in handy on treatment or appointment days. Check to see what is in their area, but places like Boston Market and Cracker Barrel for hearty meals or Panera for soup and lighter fare are some options.
Every visit to a doctor, hospital or treatment facility involves a copay. Those add up a quickly so another wonderful gift is a grocery store gift card. Sometimes, more than a meal, the family needs some cereal or toilet paper, or a prescription refilled. If you aren’t sure of the appropriate retailer, consider a VISA or MasterCard gift card – they can be used almost everywhere.
A care package is another wonderful way to bless. Consider mints or ginger drops to counter bad tastes from drugs. Include some special tea and shortbreads. A good quality lip balm and skin lotion are great options – just be mindful of any issues with scents. Note cards and postage stamps (there are so many great designs – check out this one on the USPS website – I love it!) are also great to include. The emphasis in this is quality over quantity – so thoughtfully choose a few items that will truly be used and are perfect for your friend. You know them, you love them, so handpick items that you are drawn to. Most important, add words that will encourage and bless and even entertain.
Send a super soft, comfy throw or pillow – it’s great for car trips and chemo, or just resting at home. It may well be their favorite thing. Emphasize – QUALITY – it’s a subtle way to send the message that you expect them to get well and be around to use it for a long time. Being generous, even magnanimous, gives hope to the one receiving that they have time to enjoy the gift.
Create a recovery playlist – send the playlist along with a gift card to cover the cost of the song downloads. This is especially wonderful during chemo.
Gift a subscription to a magazine related to her interests/hobbies. Fatigue may interfere with reading novels but short stories/articles are just right. A gift subscription to Netflix or HuluPlus is another wonderful idea.
If their dietary restrictions and your budget permit, send a fresh fruit arrangement. They are beautiful and a wonderful treat. I’ve had great experience locally with Edible Arrangements. A nice box of cookies or chocolates that they can offer guests is a great gift – if they are a host at heart, it’s a way for them to show hospitality to visitors.
Gentle readers, cancer touches each of us. The National Cancer Institute predicts in 2015 there will be 1,658,370 new diagnoses in the United States alone. It’s likely that you have either been personally touched or have a near friend or family member who is presently in the battle. I will be blessed if you leave a comment. How have friends encouraged and blessed you and your family?
Note: The recommendations above that specify a particular brand or service are based on my personal experience alone and I was not compensated in any way.