15 Helpful tips for family, friends and co-workers

Contributed by Christine McHugh, co-founder of Choose Hope, Inc.  Choose Hope, Inc. has kindly given us permission to reproduce these invaluable tips.  www.choosehope.com

1. Sometimes flowers aren't the best. Patient's immune systems may be compromised and living plants, flowers, and Spanish moss are not allowed. Look for alternative ways to say you care.

2. A "Healing Hands" shirt is a great way to show team support. Gather friends, family, co-workers, or even pets together. Using fabric paint, have everyone place their hand prints (or paw prints) on a T-shirt, sweatshirt, or denim shirt. Personalization can be added by each print with a Sharpie or laundry marker. A perfect way for the patient to be surrounded by their loved ones on treatment days.

3. Losing hair is a hard thing...no doubt about it! Have a hat party and invite your friends to each wear a hat, and leave the hat for your friend. Hats should range from unique to practical.

4. Keeping in touch is important. Send cards, notes, banners, kids' drawings, or any message of hope to show you care. I found receiving get well cards with the message "while you recover" to be very important in my healing.

5. Form a "Relay for Life" team. This can show great team support while giving the patient something fun to look forward to. Call 1-800-ACS-2345 for information on Relays in your community.

6. Remember the family with food and treats. Find out family dietary needs and have one person schedule meals. Supply a meal approximately every three days. It was great to have my kids jump in bed with me and be able to offer them a homemade treat.

7. Gift certificates to area fast food/restaurants surrounding the patient's clinic and hospital are very helpful.

8. Pretty new P.J.'s with front opening for IV access is essential. Throw in a pair of fuzzy slippers for added fun.

9. Cash is always helpful for miscellaneous family needs.

10. Themed gift boxes or baskets for the family are a great idea. For example: a movie basket filled with videos, video coupons, root beer, candy, popcorn, etc. is always fun.

11. Arrange for help with laundry and housecleaning. Church groups, or service groups, are always willing to help when needed. Your friend's job right now is to heal, not to be overwhelmed by day-to-day household chores.

12. Surprise slumber party! Make a date with your friend even if she is too tired to go out. Show up in jammies, cold cream and curlers. Insist she do the same. Sweep her off to a friend's house where you will eat junk food, play board games, and share many laughs.

13. Seek out positive survivor stories and share them often with your friend. She needs to know that 8 million Americans are LIVING with cancer today.

14. Don't assume the family needs or wants to be alone. Short visits can take the family's mind off of everyday stress. Share laughs and make wonderful memories.

15. Stay connected. Nothing bothered me more than when I would hear "I kept tabs on you through so-and-so because I just didn't know what to say." Remember simply saying "I'm here and I care" is better than nothing at all.

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