You know when your kiddo has the flu and you’ve sent the group text to your friends warning them of their own imminent puke fests, and there’s that one friend that always responds with, “how can I help?” or “what do you need?” and then a few hours later you find Lysol and Gatorade at your front door? That’s the best. Just that tiny little gift of thought and support, the gift of knowing you’re cared about, is enough to make the hours and hours of back rubbing and toilet cleaning a little easier to stomach.
Imagine for a minute if your child never got better from the stomach flu. What if you were told that your life was going to be nothing but the worst of the stomach flu until either a bunch of super expensive and dangerous medicines cured your child or your child dies? Can you even imagine?
I can, and unfortunately so can the thousands of parents whose kids have been diagnosed with cancer. The second that diagnosis comes in, all bets are off and normalcy becomes a nightmare of doctor speak, scans, tests, tears, discomfort, hospital bills and an actual and real fear for your baby’s life. These parents need help. They need their friends to be there for them for moral support. They need their families to advocate for them. They need their medical professionals to create miracles for them.
But, how can one person help, really help, in this horrifying situation? How can one person support, encourage and be strong for an entire family when the going gets tough?
I’ll tell you. It’s way easier than it seems.
The gift of food is always appreciated, especially for a parent or two living off of hospital cafeteria food. Being the recipient of a few gift meals, I can tell you without a doubt that even a simple home cooked meal does a heart good. In all honesty, one of the most positive memories I have of the Ronald McDonald house involved a homemade grilled chicken gift – mmmm. My soul was lifted that evening and ever since when I think about the heart that went into those few pieces of barbequed chicken.
Another way help is needed is with other children in the family. When a child has cancer, suddenly every thing else becomes background noise. The highlight of the week used to be the tball game, but now that just causes anxiety when there’s no parent available for it. Offer up your transportation services for a ball game or an appointment. While it this helps to alleviate stress in the already stressed out parents, it can boost the morale of the other kids in the family when they realize they really are still important.
Aside from the little things, friends and family of parents with a tiny cancer fighter can also help by compiling resources for the parents who most likely need help but don’t have the time to even recognize what they need let alone find out how to get it. Coupons from the Children’s Miracle Network for meals could help a family a lot – a little assistance goes a long way on the cancer treatment and recovery road.
A new partnership with YouCaring has enabled the American Childhood Cancer Organization to offer free crowdfunding and fundraising services to families with childhood cancer. Here, they charge no fees; so all monies raised are for the family – a step in the right direction for crowdfunding and assistance in general. This could be a hugely impactful way to offer your support for a family in crisis.
Having been on the receiving end of well wishes and thoughtful gifts myself, I am aware of how precious even the smallest offer of help is. Helping someone in need doesn’t have to be a big deal. A phone call, text or a quick stop by the hospital or home gives an immediate boost to those on the receiving end. Bring them a coffee or candy bar as a lasting hug after you leave. Offer to watch the other kids so they can grab a shower or walk through Target for an hour to get back to feeling “normal”. Cook them a meal in a ready to freeze pan. Bring a bag of incidentals for their house that they are most likely too busy to think about – toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, and paper plates. For the parents staying at a hospital, makeup remover wipes, a good book or your time is a great “thinking of you” gift.
The bottom line is, these parents are giving every single ounce of their energy to their sick child and their well children . . . what they need more than anything is for someone to look out for them. So bring a smile. A hug. An ear. Give thirty minutes of your time to listen, really listen, to what they are dealing with.
A family going through the serious illness of a child is busy, both physically and emotionally. Chances are, they may not remember the details of your kindness, but they will always remember how your little act made them feel, and that is really all that matters.
A big thanks to Rhonda Wilson, mama to to a cancer angel, for writing this blog article.