Guest post by Marni Mandell
Communicating your needs as a cancer patient with your friends and family can be a daunting task. Sometimes we really need help and sometimes all we need is a sounding board. As a caregiver, I’ve worked with a great deal of cancer patients over the years. When facing challenges, good communication is as important as ever. Here I’ve compiled seven tips that I’ve seen have really helped.
Know that by allowing your loved ones to help you, you’re helping themI get it, you want to feel independent. I can do this, I’m an independent woman, you want to think. But think about it the other way around: If your friend was in need, would you want to help them? Of course! But for some reason when we’re the person in need, we forget this. We turn this idea on its head. It’s important to remember that our friends and family want to help us. It’s a valuable opportunity for them because they care about you. And when they help, they feel good. It’s that simple. So remember: by allowing your family and friends to help you, you’re helping them as well.
Blogging can be a fulfilling experience for cancer patients. Having an online space to express what you’re experiencing is a great way to get your voice heard. It’s also nice that it’s not towards one person, but rather your entire audience of family and friends. As you can imagine, this can be a huge time saver. Writing a single blog post weekly or even monthly is much easier than personally updating all of your loved ones. It also allows others to understand what you’re going through and how they may be able to help you.
When one of my good friends had breast cancer, I would find and read blogs out there from other women who had breast cancer. It would help me understand what my friend’s experience was like and helped me think of ways to help her. If she had written a blog herself, it would have made it that much easier to know what she needed. Sometimes my friends did, and it gave me confidence to help in specific ways that I now knew were needed. It also prevented me from asking too many questions that my friends otherwise would’ve had to answer over and over.
Write it down
Expressing your needs as a patient can be hard to begin with, why make it harder by trying to express them out loud? Often times, writing can be more comfortable for patients. Next time you need something, try sending your friend a text message as opposed to calling them - and don’t be shy about being specific. Your friends will likely welcome the opportunity to help in specific ways that they know are needed
Your friends and family want to help
I’ll never forget the time I broke my foot. I had to wear a cast, and unfortunately not everything fits over casts. A few weeks into wearing it, I had an important business meeting. I had prepared for weeks, but I discovered late the night before that I had nothing to wear. Nothing could fit over that cast. Despite the time, I texted one of my best friends. No joke, within twenty minutes she was at my house with five dresses to choose from. I felt so good, and she appreciated the opportunity to help in a way she could.
Decide how much help you’ll want in making decisions
For some, treatment is a personal decision; for others, the family is involved. Think about which decision-making format is best for you and stick to that.
Designate a principal caregiver or a core of caregivers
This person or group should be in close contact with the doctor to best understand the demands of caregiving, your needs, and to be more confident about providing care.
Think right away about how much information you’re comfortable sharingwith your friends, family, and others. Find the right balance. Sharing too little may make them feel alienated from your life, while sharing too much can make you feel vulnerable. Once you make your decision, be confident that you’ve made the best decision for you.
Marni Mandell is the Founder and CEO of CareHood, a platform for patients and their caregivers to get the support they need from their friends, family, and community. The idea for CareHood was developed out of the challenges Marni encountered offering care and support for friends who were too far away for her to help when they were in treatment with serious illnesses and other physical challenges. Marni’s professional experience spans 15 years in executive-level management in the high tech startup world of Israel and the not-for-profit sector in the United States