Help Fight Breast Cancer as a Chemo Support Buddy

10 Ways To Support A Patient During Chemotherapy

When a friend or loved one starts chemotherapy for breast cancer, you can step in to help them through the treatments and recovery.  Becoming a chemo buddy – whether in person or over a long-distance – gives you a role in helping fight breast cancer

Involve your special person in planning for her own chemo support, and prioritizing the list of tasks that may come up. Here are 10 ways to be a great chemo buddy.

1
Tune In

Chemotherapy Senior. Credit: Media for Medical / Contributor / Getty Images

Actively listen when a chemo patient wants to talk.  You have been given two ears but only one mouth, so try to listen twice as much as you talk. 

When you do talk, demonstrate how well you heard by restating what was said – this is a technique of reflective listening.  Good listening skills can be used to increase understanding, clear up any confusion and reinforce your supportive relationship. 

  • Validate your loved one's feelings, but don't feed their fears.
  • Be sensitive to signs of depression and anxiety. 
  • If you are being supportive over long-distance, check in with your friend between treatments.

2
Pack Your Bags

Lavievert Toiletry Bag. Credit: http://www.amazon.com/

You can help make chemo treatments go smoothly by being well prepared. 

Pack up items that might be needed during an infusion appointment: 

  • Tissues
  • Music or movies
  • Games
  • Magazines and books
  • Blanket and pillow
  • Snacks or hard candies
  • mug
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Medication list
  • A notepad or recorder for taking notes

If there's a chance that vomiting or nausea could happen on the drive home, take along a small plastic trashcan and some paper towels.

3
Do Some Hang Time

Cancerous Adult In Hospital. Credit: BSIP / Contributor / Getty Images

The first chemo appointment is the hardest – don't miss being there for this one.  You're a real hero if you attend every infusion, shot, and blood draw. 

Giving your time is incredibly supportive.  While you're there, don't just relax:  take notes, ask questions of the doctor and nurses, entertain or distract your loved one, and advocate for them if their anxiety escalates or allergic symptoms appear. 

  • Between treatments, continue to offer support and encouragement. 
  • A good chemo buddy can help by just being present at the clinic, at home, or in the workplace. 
  • Hanging out helps enforce a sense of normalcy and security.

4
Get Out

Breast cancer sufferer Enza Peers, 26 April 2010. Credit: The AGE / Contributor / Getty Images

People in cancer treatment sometimes start to feel isolated and out of touch with normal life.  Counteract this by taking them for short outings, gentle walks, drives through the park, lunch, or a movie matinee. 

Keep in mind that chemotherapy can make a patient more susceptible to infection, so avoid large crowds of people.

5
Hands-on Help

Iris Rusenstrom rests at home after having blood samples taken. CANCER TIMMINS---03/24/03--- Iris Rusenstrom rests at home after having blood samples taken a day be : News Photo CompEmbedShareAdd to Board CANCER TIMMINS---03/24/03--- Iris Rusenstrom rests at home after having blood samples taken a day be Credit: Steve Russell / Contributor / Getty Images

Normal chores and errands still have to be done while a person is having chemotherapy treatment, but the patient may have fatigue or other side effects. 

Call up the eager beavers and assign them some tasks: 

  • Driving
  • House cleaning and laundry
  • Childcare
  • Meal preparation and grocery shopping
  • Mail sorting

If you are not close by and can't offer hands-on support, be a virtual supporter by using online social networking to update family and friends or raise funds.

6
Retail Therapy

Kerry Himmel helps her daughter Destiny, 16, who is receiving chemotherapy, to a McDonald's bathroom. Credit: Wally Skalij / Contributor / Getty Images

Here's a fun way to offer support from any point on the globe – shop and send your favorite breast cancer survivor some thoughtfully chosen items. 

  • Consider practical things like caps and scarves (in the case of hair loss), comforting pillows, unscented lotions and caffeine-free teas. 
  • Mark your calendar and send your loved one a card every week, reminding them that you care.
  • Spring for gift certificates that provide meal delivery, house cleaning, spa services, music or movies and reading material.
  • If you're feeling fashion-indulgent, choose breast cancer awareness bracelets and jewelry that support the cause.

7
Be Aware and Prepare

Cancer, Man. Credit: BSIP / Contributor / Getty Images

As a proactive supporter, you'll be ready for anything.

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.
  • Organize all the medications.
  • Maintain good medical records.
  • Keep up an appointment calendar.
  • Know how to take a temperature. 
  • Keep track of bills and receipts, and make sure you understand how to work with your health insurance provider.

8
Learn Up

Tom Stoddart Collection. Credit: Tom Stoddart / Contributor / Getty Images

Understand the nature of the enemy and your chosen weapons.  Learn about your loved one's diagnosis, treatment plan, possible side effects, and how to help them cope. 

  • Get to know the members of the healthcare team and their roles in this fight. 
  • Know who to ask for advice when you need help with symptoms, home care, finances and emotional support. 

9
Take Breaks

Beach People. Credit: Keith Getter / Contributor / Getty Images

Fighting this battle doesn't have to be one long drag through chemo suites and hospitals.

  • Take breaks from the clinical atmosphere when your loved one's health allows.
  • Lift the patient's spirits as well as your own by planning and taking weekend trips, visits to friends, or working on a hobby that you enjoy. 

Having a non-medical activity to occupy the mind can refresh your mind and spirit.  You may be a great chemo buddy, but don't let chemo occupy your whole horizon.

10
Maintain Hope

Chinese People Celebrate The Year Of Monkey. Credit: ChinaFotoPress / Contributor / Getty Images

Hope is an important part of giving support. Your attitude will affect people around you and can help others carry on the fight when days seem dark.

  • Talk with positive, upbeat people to recharge your own "hope battery."
  • Feel free to shield your loved one from those who are negative or insensitive.
  • Stay positive, celebrate victories - no matter how small - and remain focused on the goals of treatment.
  • Make plans for a future after treatment and keep moving forward.

Source:

Chemotherapy and You: Support for People With Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Posted: 06/29/2007.

Continue Reading