• Nathira Salim

Family and friends

Welcome back to my blog, where I post everything about my cancer discovery to recovery.

I actually wrote a two page post on this but somehow I think - due to the complexity and nature of cancer, I had to rewrite the whole thing.

The objective of this post is to understand what a family member and/or friend's role is during someone's cancer path of discovery and recovery.

There are many books about this actually. And mostly I skip that portion about family and friend because by the time I did read about them, I have already informed the necessary people about my diagnosis. There was nothing more to the done, because I am the person with cancer, I don't think anything good will come out of me reading it.

First of all - lets assume that the Person with Cancer (PC) has already understood the nature and treatment of the cancer that was diagnosed. Now, let's assume that the PC has not told anyone yet.

I am assuming the first person who knows would be the PC's partner, or family member or friend. Lets list out what I think each one should be doing for the PC.


The list.

The 2nd person to know about this, or the partner or family. The family member should discuss with the PC to come up with a list of people within the family to inform about this new situation. There should be a " Need To Know" list and ' Can Know Later" list. The "Need To Know" list should contain the names of family members the PC is comfortable with. They should be the people who would gather around for support. They should be the people who would be there no matter what when required. And by 'when required', I mean when there's a need to look after the kids, to help with the cleanup and cooking and driving during the treatment. Family like them. Friends can be in this list too. By extension the people related to employment should be here as well.

The 'Can know later' list. are the people who are too far to make the effort to help. Maybe they are in a different country, or you are just not into them at all, or they are just people you are not comfortable. Again - so called friends, Facebook friends, acquaintances and all can fall in this category. I have this list - these are the distant family members or friends who I don't want to worry them about, or perhaps I just feel they can know about this later. Its not imperative they know about this now. Or I just don't want them to know.

Release the statement

When the "Need To Know' list is ready, prepare a statement. This statement can be written or be said so many times you don't need to write it down anyways. Decide who will release the statement. In my case - I got my hubby to act as the spokesperson to his side of family**, and his friends while I will release the news to my family and my friends. My decisions of the treatment, and updates and all will be updated by my hubby to his side of informants. This way I don't have to deal with many variables.

** (Actually - my in laws are sensitive people. Especially my sister in law and mother in law. If they break down and cry - whatever strength I have inside of me - will falter and I cannot have that.)

I had to make few phone calls, say the same thing over and over till I felt I can say it in my dreams as well.

Gather around

Family members at this moment, will need to get over their own shock because their lives have been overthrown as well. True, they may not be the one going through chemo and radiation, but the PC is still their own. It will hurt them as much as it hurts the PC. The family should get over their grief and help out wherever they can. Where help is required:

  1. Baby sitting or taking care of the kids.

  2. Bringing over home cooked meals so that the PC can relax

  3. Help with the cooking

  4. Help with the cleaning

  5. Help with following around for doctor's appointment

  6. Help with driving to and from hospital.

  7. Help during recovery after surgery

  8. Help with the above during chemo

  9. Help with the kids coaching or tuition

  10. Call in or drop a message as and when you can.

  11. Be educated about the cancer

  12. Hold the PC hand's and console them

  13. Hug them and say that they are strong

Where help is NOT required:

  1. Comparing the PC's cancer with some one else's.

  2. Complaining and whining about their life to the PC

  3. Family drama within the family - seriously need to stop.

  4. No initiaitve to do anything without being told to.

My aunts came over with home cooked food and also called on me every time. I am always grateful to them. My cousin, the one I went to Korea with, she's always checking on me giving me strength when I am down. My sis would message me every few days to find out if I'm ok.


Friends are no different to this as well. Close friends can help out as and when they can. Call in to help them with the next appointment. PC are not always bedridden. So get them out of the house for a walk in the park or mall, simple shopping, or coffee or a lunch. All these will help.

I don't believe things should change just because of cancer. Its not a death sentence...yet. Its just a terminal disease that will one day go away or be the COD ( cause of death). But whatever it may be, F&F (friends and family) should make the effort to call or drop a message even if physically they are not able to be there for the PC.

I have mentioned this over and over in all my posts here - my friends have been wonderful. Every single one who knew - kept in touch with me. There never was a month that passed where each one of them would not drop me a message to ask me how I am.

Recently my BFF came over to visit me and she kept apologising that she was not able to visit me ever since my cancer diagnosis four months ago. She's a busy person with crazy packed schedules. I am aware. We last met like two years ago. And she's still my BFF. When shit hit the fan in July, I messaged her first. She was in my "Need to Know" F&F list in the 3rd place after my hubby and mum. She helped me with my queries and also with the research I was doing for my cancer ( she's a nurse). She consoled me and helped me out with my fears. She was there for me when I needed her and that's all I required. All I need is like a few hours with her where I tell her everything that has happened and then I am relieved.

This is what I think F&F should be doing throughout the PC's cancer treatment. Just let the PC know that they are always there for them, physically or not. And just for that I think the PC will always be grateful - just like I am.

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