Big Ways to Help

The last post wasn’t exactly complete.  There are, of course, other ways to help a friend with cancer, and I hope you’ll help me fill out the list in the comments to this and the other posts.  Already, there are some amazing comments about helping the spouse of a person with cancer and specific household help for the day after chemo.  Genius, guys, thanks! 

The most amazing help that I’ve personally experienced are all Big Deals, but I would be remiss in not recounting them here.  These take quite a bit of effort but can be done more easily in groups.  One friend can take the lead in organizing help — a great idea in any case, as there is SO MUCH going on when a person is newly diagnosed with cancer that offers to help can easily get lost in the shuffle.  A lifechanging event like a cancer diagnosis can feel like a whirlwind.  The person with cancer may not feel like accepting help at first (trust me on that), but later it may become necessary … or at least welcome.

One of the greatest gifts is organization.  Are you a listmaker?  Or good with spreadsheets?  Offer to organize the offers of help for the person with cancer.  If you’ve got a group of her friends that want to help, great!  If not, offer to respond to those other friends that contact her with offers of help and help them figure out what is most needed.  Remember, everyone will offer to help at first — but the effects of chemotherapy are cumulative, so the help may be most needed at the end when she is most tired.  (Not always true if, for instance, the chemo regimen changed like mine did.  But even the later Taxol treatments, gentler than the original AC doses, have been much harder than the first ones.  And the cumulative effects of the diagnosis alone do add up to tears and fears after weeks or months of living with cancer.)

The organizer can make a list of friends and their specific offers to help, spacing them out appropriately so that everyone doesn’t bring dinner all at once, for example.  Perhaps there’s a specific need that the person with cancer has, like driving her to chemo and sitting with her once a week.  That can be a big job for one friend but much easier for a group of people that can each spend a few hours once.  There are other long-term ideas that you can come up with.  Perhaps she needs help at the grocery store, if lifting and bending are difficult and her husband works long hours or has a big commute.  Perhaps she is having trouble making the bed because of the neuropathy in her fingers from Taxol or Taxotere.  Maybe one week she’s got really bad bruises from the IV and is having trouble with the baby.  The ideas are endless, but the thought is the same … keep her company, and keep yourselves sane … figure out a way to spread out the help because the weeks get long and cancer, unfortunately, has no quick fix.

These are the most amazing ways that my friends have helped me through this.  Each is a Big Deal, which is why I didn’t mention them in the last post.  The last thing a friend needs is guilt or overextension.  But if you have a group of friends or can organize one, these have been lifesavers:

  • Team WhyMommy – a bunch of online friends and blogneighbors that get together to keep me company, especially on the low days, but most importantly EVERY day, just in case;
  • MOMS Club support – they divvied me up and each mom took a week to take care of me.  Each Sunday, I get a call from a friend offering babysitting, shopping, cleaning, cooking, or company, and we set something up for the week.  (I’ve been lucky to only need babysitting, cooking, and company.  But God Bless Them for offering to clean.);
  • Morning out – one of my mom friends babysits Widget each week while I go to yoga, giving me “permission” to spend a couple hours on myself.  I know I can truly relax in the darkened yoga room if my little Widget is out having an adventure with his friends and not missing me that much; and
  • Chemo Fairies – every Thursday morning before chemo, one of the moms drops off a little gift bag filled with treats, mints, and happies to help me through the day.  It’s totally spoiling me, but and it’s made a huge difference in how I view Thursdays.  Although I dread getting up to go to chemo in the morning, I also know that friends are thinking of me and I’m NOT ALONE as I fight this beast.

Like I said, these are all Big Deals and commitments.  But they have made all the difference to me.

I’m off to chemo again this morning … number 12!  I’m in good spirits now, but it’s been a tough week this week and I’d appreciate a little company today.  I’ll be checking email/web … if you’ve got a minute and you’re so inclined, would you please leave me a comment to say hi?


44 Responses to Big Ways to Help

  1. Kate says:

    Dear WM,
    I do not post often, but I am here with you every day. I think of you often, and I will especially be thinking of you this morning as you are in chemo. You are not alone!

  2. kippi says:

    22 years ago my mother was diagnosed with IBC stage IV, 27 node involvement. They did things a bit differently back then but the odds were the same. She survived. Remember those statistics are real people. And know that there are those of us who don’t comment holding your hand on this very day. Keep smiling. And keep the faith.

  3. atypical says:

    Just saying, “Hi!”

    I know I haven’t been one to comment or viryually spread the word, but I wanted you to know my family and I are praying for you regularly.

  4. atypical says:

    virtually, that is

  5. Morning whymommy! Number twelve…. wow. Amazing.

    When we went through such heartbreak, so many people would say to me in the comments, “I’m thinking of you every day…” and that was nice, but I don’t know if I really believed it. I mean, they were strangers, and I was a stranger to them. So I figured they were saying that because they didn’t know what else to say, and they didn’t want us to feel so alone.

    Now I’m on the other side, for you, I want you to know this. I really do think of you every day, hoping you feel strong, wishing for healing, wishing for time, peace, playdates. Wishing for more ordinary, and less cancer. Wishing I knew you, to bring you tea, to list-make, to just sit with you.

    Really, truly. You’ve taught me so much. Thank you.

  6. Amy says:

    Your blog has meant a lot to me over the months. I am thinking of you; all the best with chemo today.

  7. Hey there! I’m thinking about you today. Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    It’s great you practice yoga. I hope it helps some. I just became a yoga teacher! So many synchronicities between you and me. 🙂

  8. Hey! I thought I’d drop you a quick line to keep you company during chemo today. We’ve been busy getting ready for Chanukah which starts next week and I have three kids with birthdays (a 16 yo and two 5 yos!). Not to mention the rest of the craziness that comes with life. I loved the post about the rocket – it looks really cool. I think I’m going to get that for Ada, she’d love it. I’ve also been playing with my scooba and roomba – so much better than a maid service, but so much easier than mopping my own floors. I’d love to know what your friends are putting in the chemo treats, I’d like to do that here locally for a friend…

  9. delilah says:

    Will be thinking of you today and sending lots of positive thoughts your way.

  10. deb says:

    Hi sweetie. How about a joke to make you smile?

    A man and a woman were sitting beside each other in the first class section of an airplane. The woman sneezed, took out a tissue, gently wiped her nose, then visibly shuddered for ten to fifteen seconds. The man went back to his reading.

    A few minutes later, the woman sneezed again, took a tissue, wiped her nose, then shuddered violently once more. Assuming that the woman might have a cold, the man was still curious about the shuddering. A few more minutes passed when the woman sneezed yet again. As before she took a tissue, wiped her nose, her body shaking even more than before.

    Unable to restrain his curiosity, the man turned to the woman, ‘I couldn’t help but notice’ he said, ‘that you’ve sneezed three times, wiped your nose and then shuddered violently. Are you ok?’

    ‘I am sorry if I disturbed you,’ she replied. ‘I have a very rare medical condition; whenever I sneeze I have an orgasm.’

    The man, more than a bit embarrassed, was still curious. ‘I have never heard of that condition before’ he said. ‘Are you taking anything for it?’

    The woman nodded, ‘Black Pepper.’

  11. canape says:

    It’s a dozen day. Although a dozen donuts would be more fun, I’m proud of you for making it through a dozen treatments.

    Now I’m off to sniff some black pepper.

  12. Meg says:

    Hi WhyMommy!

    I’ll be thinking of you today. My husband (!) and I leave on our honeymoon today. We’ve been married for 6 weeks already. I’ll send lots of good thoughts your way from across the pond…we’re going to Ireland.


  13. Stephanie says:

    You are and will continue to be an inspiration to us all! Much love and prayers coming your way for Arkansas!

  14. trish says:

    I’ve never commented before but I’ve read your site for a while now and I wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you (from Aberdeen, Scotland).

  15. practiceliving says:

    This (and yesterday’s!) post is great, WM, and I imagine that your advice works for any life-changing event, too. Thanks for the tips!

    Here’s a couple silly jokes to add to deb’s great one above:

    Q: What do you get when you drop a piano down a mine shaft?
    A: A flat minor.

    Q: What’s a pirate’s favourite letter?
    A: Arrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  16. juliepippert says:

    Good luck today and continued thanks for the insights and ideas. My sister says thanks too.

    Here’s my next question and maybe commenters will have ideas: What do you do for the friend who is long-distance, who now lives in another state, and who is dealing with this?

    Using My Words

  17. Spacemom says:

    I hope that things go easy on you today and that you can rest in comfort this evening.

    I saw my cousin last week. Her hair is coming back from her chemo… She’s still weak, but she’s coming back!

    Thinking of you (hey, did you see the news about Venus and lightning?)

  18. Trisha says:

    I hope things are going well today. Feeling up for a joke? My mom just sent me a corny one, and it’s my duty to pass it on:

    The Maid asked for a raise.
    The Madam was very upset about this and asked: “Now Maria, why do you want an increase?”
    Maria: “Well Madam, there are three reasons why I want an increase. The first is that I iron better than you.”
    Madam: “Who said you iron better than me?”
    Maria: “The Master said so.”
    Madam: “Oh.”
    Maria: “The second reason is that I am a better cook than you.”
    Madam: “Nonsense, who said you were a better cook than I?”
    Maria: “The Master did.”
    Madam: “Oh.”
    Maria: “My third reason is that I am a better lover than you.”
    Madam (very upset now): “Did the Master say so as well?”
    Maria: “No Madam, the gardener did.”

    Thinking of you!

  19. Danielle says:

    You’re in my thoughts today. And I was just thinking of the Sarah Maclachlan song “In the Arms of the Angel” when I read this. So, I’ll be humming it today and thinking of you…in the arms of an angel, may you find some comfort here.

  20. MplsChica says:

    Hi there, WM! I’m another who has never actually commented (I don’t have a blog of my own, and I’m still “learning” about this here blogosphere!) but who is here every day checking in, rooting for you and learning from you.

    You’re paving amazing ground here, WM – not only with your brave, smart and insightful posts about your fight with the cancer, but also in the ways you are so beautifully describing what it means to be a part of a circle of such amazing friends and family…what it means to really love the people who surround you and to see the capacity we all have to support the people in our lives…ones we know and love, AND ones we’ve never met!

    Thank you for allowing us to follow you on this journey. I appreciate your thoughts each day and always and sending good vibes your way!

  21. Nicole says:

    Hi WhyMommy!

    I’ve never commented before but I come here daily to check on you. I think your posts are a wonderful way to reach out with information about IBC and breast cancer in general. I’ve shared your site with friends and family, and I hope they visit often, too. Thank you for bringing all of us enlightenment on this issue.

    Good luck today!

    And thanks for yesterday’s post!

  22. Alesia says:

    The countdown is on!

    You’re amazing.

    You’re in my thoughts.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    Thinking of you….

  24. ella says:

    Another one here to say that I think of you every day and wishing you well today.

  25. Angela says:

    Thinking of you today, and enjoying the jokes your pals have written here. I’ll have to see if I can find one to share too:

    What did one snowman say to the other snowman??

    — Do you smell carrots?

  26. Margaret says:

    Do you know how much help *you* give everyone else when you’re willing to ask for help? People who love you– here in the blogosphere, and at home– want so badly to do anything to make this easier for you that it’s a perfect gift to read a post that asks for anything at all. Thank you. Hang in there.

  27. Bobbie says:

    Delurking from Connecticut to say “hi” and thinking good thoughts for you today.


  28. Keryn says:

    I’m pretty much a complete stranger, but know that even out here in the wilds of Utah you’ve got people rooting and praying for you. Good luck today.

  29. Emily says:

    Saying “hi!”

    This is a great and helpful list. The only thing I would say is that someone should be in charge of letting her know that it is OK NOT to make the bed 🙂


  30. Lauren says:

    I just wanted to stop by and say “hi”. I hope you are getting through today doing as well as you can.

    Also to chime in on what I did for my dear friend who was diagnoses with stage 0 breast cancer.

    She was lucky enough to not need Chemo or radiation since it was caught so very early.

    She went straight for the double mastectomy surgery option with reconstruction. She was also lucky enough that they were able to start the reconstruction during her mastectomy surgery.

    Knowing her movements would be limited and that she would have drainage tubes and all me and a few friends got her the camisole at this website ( that is specifically designed for this surgery.
    I also got her satin pjs, a warm robe and just pj pants and other little pampering things.

    I think the things she liked receiving most from anyone was truly the friendships staying with and not just the insincere sentiments from people.

  31. Qutecowgirl says:


    I come by for a visit everyday (even when my kids only give me a few minutes on the computer)

    I am cheering for you Girl!!

    I am hoping that this go around goes well.

  32. Stimey says:

    Hiya! You know I think about you every day, and that visits and playdates with you are highpoints of my week. You’re an amazing woman, and handling your cancer with such grace and inspiration. I’m so thankful to be your friend!

  33. Ali says:

    Thinking of you…

  34. NoRegrets says:

    I’m posting a comic for you on my site.

  35. Aileen says:

    It’s a bit late in the day, but I just got to reading blogs (supposed to be working). I wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about you. I found your site because I was looking for ideas for what fun things I could do with my toddler, and found so much more. Just recently a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it is so good to be able to read your posts and try to understand a little of what she is going through.
    Keep up the great blogging, and I hope that you find some comfort in all these comments from people today!

  36. Marlene says:

    Reading and thinking of you often…take good care.

  37. Jan says:

    Hi! Good Luck with #12!

  38. Jenn says:

    Thinking of you, always.

  39. Hi, Whymommy–

    I’m always out here, rooting for you. And my three little girlies, too. At least once or twice a day, one of them will appear at my elbow while I’m working on my computer and ask, “How’s Whymommy today?”

    I hope that today’s treatment was uneventful, and that you will have a better week this week… Although, that sounded like one Hull of a Hullabaloo you hosted the other day!! Your post made me wish that we were there, too…

    I’m going to root through my emails right now, and find a good joke for you…

    More later!!

    Lots of love, as always, CGF xo

  40. ohgrammy says:

    Thinking of you — all day, every day! Hugs.

  41. Danielle says:

    I can’t think of any funny jokes. I really wanted too but I just can’t. I even tried Googling jokes and didn’t know where to begin so I tried Cancer jokes and everything. I tried.

    I can do this. I think of you at least once everyday although we have never met in real life and probably never will.

    I try to visualize you strong and healthy and playing with your children in the hope that it will give you strength and come try very soon.

    I check this site everyday that I read blogs and try to stay up to date.

    I just wish I had a funny joke. 🙂

  42. 12. A dozen. Very well then. Checking in and always thinking of you.

  43. […] to add:  There was a lot of interest in this post, so I’ve added related posts on big ideas, using your gifts, and helping a faraway friend and linked them at the top of this page under […]

  44. Ally says:

    These ideas are so fantastic. And I’m so glad that your friends and neighbors and community has demonstrated their love for you in this way. Thanks for passing it on to all of us and teaching us how to be better friends.

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