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An Open Letter to Cancer Caregivers

AmberGillespieby Amber N. Gillespie

 

When assuming the caregiving role, I think it is easy to think of how to help: take over meals, offer to clean house, run errands or the kids to/from events, etc.  Or if you live far away but still want to help, you may send flowers. Since I have assumed roles of both patient and caregiver, I can say that it is just not that easy.  Hopefully my ideas below will help you.  I don’t claim these to be “out of the box” or “new” caregiving tips, but they come from a long-term patient (me).

Preparing dinner to bring over at 7pm is not always a good idea.  Patients on chemo are finicky eaters!  Sometimes our dulled taste buds want a donut, but our minds know we should eat a salad.   A pizza or lasagna might sound delicious but the constipation consequences aren’t so enticing! Not only is it hard to decide what to eat, we don’t know when we will want to eat.

 

Instead of slaving over the stove for us…

1) How about some fresh fruit? Cut up a watermelon for me or bring some organic apples and peaches to me, and I will be your best friend!  Delicious, nutritious and EASY for all of us!

2) Let’s call in an order for delivery!  You don’t have to leave your house, as maybe I don’t feel like having guests, but you are still helping feed me! It might not be as healthy as I SHOULD be eating, but any food is better than none. Hopefully I just don’t end up with a ton of leftovers that I feel guilty about going bad.  I would hate for you to cook me a huge casserole and eat only one or two small portions.

3) Restaurant gift cards.  Check which restaurants are within a 5-10 mile radius of my house and buy gift cards for those places, or just a generic Visa gift card with a sticky note “for food” will work!

Instead of sending flowers…

Flowers are EXPENSIVE!  Although they are beautiful and really make a person feel special, flowers don’t help me get better.  I am not a scientist but since my white blood counts are low from chemo, I think I am supposed to stay away from fresh flowers anyway.  Instead, send a card.  It’s way cheaper and you can write about how much you love me and miss me!

Grocery shopping for me…

This could get tricky because again, finicky taste buds.  What about an Amazon gift card so I can purchase pantry items from Amazon? I also just set up my first Amazon wishlist, which you might suggest to your patient.  With Amazon Prime (another great gift idea), they can get anything from cleaning supplies, bottled water, or cookies and chips in 48 hours.  Then maybe you can just run to the store to grab some produce and dairy for me!  What about a gift card to a grocery delivery service?

Cleaning my house or apartment…

Well, I LOVE to clean.  I would feel so weird if one of my friends came over to clean my house, although I have cleaned many of my friends’ places.  I should get over it, right?  Some patients may feel completely useless watching you scrub their toilet or vacuum their floors.  You may offer to help pay for a cleaning service to come over OR ask them if you can go tidy up while they are at their doctors’ appointments/chemo.  That way, the patient won’t feel bad because they are sitting on the couch while you clean and…they come home to a CLEAN HOUSE!

 

 


 

Amber Gillespie was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2012. After chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy with reconstruction, her doctors declared her cancer free. Two years later she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and will continue treatment for the rest of her life. There is no cure for stage four metastatic breast cancer. Struggling with depression and feeling like nobody “got it,” she started a Face2Face Networking group through Young Survival Coalition in the Houston area. From this experience, she stepped into the role of a patient advocate, attending the National Breast Cancer Coalition Project LEAD, participating in the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, lobbying on Capital Hill for legislation supporting breast cancer research, and becoming a State Leader for Young Survival Coalition. Amber continues to be involved in numerous national and local Austin cancer support organizations. In addition to living with cancer, Amber enjoys connecting people, hiking, playing with her dogs, and will soon be a kayaking expert after attending First Descents. She also fills her heart with love and vitality by coaching and connecting with young girls through a local youth cheer squad.

 


 

 

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