Take Care: Practical Ways to Help Friends with Breast Cancer

A guest post from Nikki Uyboco, military wife, mom, and breast cancer survivor.

I got an email from an acquaintance (hi Angie!) awhile back asking me what she could do to take care of those in her life who had cancer. I thought it was such a thoughtful idea, so I am finally writing out my thoughts.

Please know this is from my personal experience and each person is different. What might have worked for me may not work for others. Please ask what people are comfortable with for their own healing.

Below are some ideas on how you can practically help someone going through cancer (or any chronic illness):

Meals: I know when someone is going through something difficult we often want to help with bringing a meal. This is tremendously helpful.  However, this is not the time to bring a five course dinner or loads of junk food.  Please follow all dietary recommendations expressed by the patient.  Specifically, those going through chemo have lots of tummy troubles, and limitations.  Also, try to bring food in disposable containers. Tracking whose Tupperware is whose can become complicated. When in doubt offer a gift card or meal delivery service! 

Laundry: Janelle Wilburn did my laundry every week in April and May of 2017. I left it outside, she picked it up, and brought it back folded later that week. Such a servant. 

House Cleaning

: Driving to and from appointments or procedures.

Yard work
: Weeding, lawn mowing, etc. 

Grocery Shopping/Cooking

:  For those patients with young children, finding and organizing childcare becomes a job.  Often patients don’t get to select their appointment times and so the dropping off/picking up routine is a lot.  Offer to watch children at the patient’s home or pick up the kids so the patient doesn’t have to worry about getting them anywhere. 

Fun nights out (No cancer talk allowed):  On the good days invite the patient over for dinner, or out to an activity and try and skip conversations about cancer. It’s nice to talk about everyday things.  

Organization: Organize a meal train, blog, childcare or transportation to/from appointments.  

Caregiver Respite: Relieve the main caregiver and allow them to leave the house or go do other things for a few hours.  The caregiver has to take on their regular duties and now the duties of the patient, plus navigate a new medical world.  It is A LOT of work. They need breaks often! 

Communication Tips

Lastly, I’d like to comment on communication.  Depending on how well you know the person will play a factor, but you need to be more on the assertive side.  Most people in general don’t like asking for help.  After a diagnosis, patients and caregivers are in the middle of emotions, appointments, physical limitations, and stress.  

Use language like: “I’m coming to clean your house this week. What day/time should I come?”  
“I will be coming Saturday to mow the lawn.” 
“I will be picking up Allie from school Thursday and bring her home before dinner.” 
Tell them what you are going/willing to do and ask for dates and times. 

Avoid language like: How can I help? What can I do to help? Let me know how I can help. Picture someone in a hurricane and then yelling to them, “How can I help?!”  It’s hard to get an answer. 

Other Beneficial Things

– Visitors in the hospital, especially on chemo days.
– Visitors at home, on the days I was up for it. Sometimes our tendency is to want to “give them space” or “let them be” but honestly it was very isolating at times.  I didn’t go to church or activities nearly as much and so it was wonderful for people to come over, even with their kids. I loved the fellowship.  
– Handmade blankets, care packages, flowers etc. 

Things I Struggled With

– People whispering about me while I was in the room.
– People asking me about my treatment and then talking about their family members who passed away from cancer.
– Asking, “When will things be back to normal for you?”  The answer is never. Normal is overrated.  
– Receiving articles, research etc. on anything cancer related that had to do with what treatments and/or food I should or shouldn’t do/eat.  Ask first before sending. Remember the hurricane the patient is in? We want to take things out of the hurricane not throw things in.  


I hope this helps some of you as you care for your loved ones. You are so loved and helpful in a time of need.


Read more from Nikki at https://searchingforarainbow.weebly.com

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  • Reply Allison Hoybach June 28, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you, Nikki for your honesty! I’m glad to know better how to help friends in need!

  • Reply Bonnie June 28, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    So clear and concise and helpful! Thank you!

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