9 Tips To Helping Someone Newly Diagnosed

Posted By on Sep 26, 2012 | 13 comments

Just like each of us are created with different likes and dislikes—reaching out can look differently from one patient to the next. This is tough. But from personal experience, the following actions brought the greatest joy during the ugliest times in my life.

1)      Food.

There’s a reason most churches have a meal ministry. When you’re bone-tired, the last thing you want to do is shop or research recipes or stand in front of any type of oven.

Bring them a meal.

Call first, of course.

But please avoid saying, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.” I rarely took anyone up on this offer. Instead say, “We want to help by bringing dinner. What day of the week works best?”

Then, ask for any dietary restrictions and meal preferences. No one wants ten lasagnas back to back. And don’t forget that disposable dish or your great-aunt Martha’s floral china may never return. A patient probably won’t remember who brought what.

Individual Chicken Pot Pie

My sweet friend, Ronda, often dropped off her creamy chicken pot pie after a long day of treatment. Priceless.

2)      Cards.

Funny ones, preferably with gifts tucked inside.

I’m just saying.

Nothing brightened my day more than to open a hilarious card that someone took great lengths to pick out. I chuckled, then sobbed when I realized they hid a folded check inside—even if it was only twenty-five dollars.

Gift Cards

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, the medical bills arrived in clumps. We couldn’t keep up with them. Any amount was helpful.

However, if you’re on a budget, like most of us, then simply send a card saying you’re praying.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t write, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Although this statement might be true, nothing gripes your insides tighter than learning God had anything to do with your new heart condition. Yes, He uses everything. I’ll talk more about what not to do in a future post, but for now, keep it simple.

Funny card, prayer, favorite verse, gift card to a local restaurant, you get the idea.

Think of what you’d like to receive and go from there.

3)      Cleaning service.

No one likes to clean.

Okay, my girlfriend Lyette is the exception. She has 14 kids and her house sparkles, but I also think she’s part machine because she rarely sleeps and always smiles and is the first to help someone in need.

Nonetheless, most of us don’t enjoy cleaning—especially when drowsy from medication or mentally fatigued from digesting scary news.

4)    Flowers. 

Spring bouquet of flowers

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love flowers. I discourage my husband from buying them because they cost so much and I’d rather he spend fifty bucks on an outfit that will last a year versus a bouquet that lasts a week.

But, flowers make you smile.


5)      Space.

My phone rang off the hook once news of my illness rippled through our congregation, and although we knew people wanted to help, the repeated phone calls asking for an update became exhausting.

I’m sure your loved one will figure out quickly that they need one mouthpiece in the family to keep everyone up to date.

Don’t repeatedly call.

If you want to help and they’re not picking up the phone, mail a card, send flowers, but give them space.

Life probably stinks right about now and they’re trying to figure it all out.

6)      Listen.

If you happen to be that close friend they chose to confide in, just listen.

Don’t offer advice or feel like you have to fix their problem.

You can’t.

And senseless rambling searching for the perfect words to comfort them may end up backfiring. Just listen. Say you’re there for them. And, as odd as this sounds, tell them about news in your life if they seem interested.

The first thing I noticed when people called was that they were afraid to talk about their life–especially the bad stuff. And this just made me feel like I was the only one stuck in a cruddy situation. I kind of wanted to know I wasn’t fighting alone.

To top that off, after the initial shock of everything subsided during my treatments, I cherished the friends who didn’t ask me how I was doing. I didn’t want the reminder that a football-sized mass threatened to swallow my lungs.

Some days I just wanted to forget and relish someone else’s normalcy. Because I had to believe I’d be there again one day.

7)      Netflix.

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

If they don’t have this service, sign them up for a six month subscription. I did a lot resting and commercials got old. Fast. Mind numbing TV, especially comical shows, really helped ease those thoughts running through my head.

Or, purchase the I Love Lucy box set, or Friends, or Christian comedian DVDs. Laughter is good medicine.

8)      Gifts.

Even gently used ones.

Let me explain. I had a major lifestyle change after reading numerous “how to cure cancer” books. My friend, Shelly, heard me mention I was looking for a juicer, and the next thing I know, she showed up with this high-tech, super expensive juicer I could have never purchased without maxing out some plastic.

I could have kissed her, although that would have been weird. But this priceless machine played a big part in aiding my new vegetarian diet. Every organic apple/carrot concoction eased my mind and fed those healthy blood cells.

Listen to their needs, then surprise them.

Books, babysitting, a care basket with organic teas or fruit, a bag full of disposable plates, cups and utensils, a car ride to a doctor’s appointment. You get the idea.

9)      Prayer.

Stop and say a simple prayer when you see the rims of their eyes fill with tears.

They’re scared.

Really scared.

And sometimes that whispered prayer carried me through my day, even if it was something simple like, “God, please be with Dabney as she fights against this disease.”

Nothing fancy.

But it was nice to know that others were petitioning the Big Man on my behalf. I secretly think God cherishes those prayers the most—the ones we join together and believe and hope and lean desperately on His understanding. The two or more theory not only eases our mind, it brings the Father into our circle.

I’m sure there were more things friends did, but my memory doesn’t like me some days. These just happen to be the top nine that stick out the most.

So, I’m curious. What things have you done for an ailing friend? Or, what things have loved ones done for you that helped during your sickness? Maybe you’ve had one of those gut-wrenching moments where someone said or did something hurtful unknowingly, but it sank your spirit. We’d all like to learn if you feel comfortable commenting anonymously. 

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