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New to our home here in Tennessee, we were surprised when small signs that simply said “Pray for Kelly” started showing up in random spots all over town several months ago. We were happy to be reminded to pray, as we have a daughter named Kelly, but were curious to know about the real Kelly the signs and prayers were for. Several months later we learned that Kelly is an outstanding young woman in her early 20’s, newly married, and well known here for her high school achievements. She has recently been diagnosed with a very deadly form of cancer. My own Dad died of colon cancer 26 years ago. My mom took very good care of him and they went through a lot for a long time until he passed away early on the morning of her own 69th birthday. Several others in our Ward and neighborhood are also battling cancer, or living life without a loved one who died of cancer. They press on with a smile and courage.
In addition to our personal circle, we frequently have people contact us wanting to tell us that our detox product has helped in numerous ways, especially with the nightmarish side effects of cancer treatments and procedures.
What about you? Who do you know with cancer? I know you won’t have to think long because cancer is so sadly common in all circles and walks of life, even with individuals who are extremely health conscious.
Whose heart isn’t touched when you learn that someone you know or care about has been diagnosed with cancer? Who doesn’t want to do something to help the individual and their loved ones? Although every situation is unique, and we may not be the actual caregivers, we can always do something to lighten and brighten their days.
Inspired by the people in our family’s life who battle cancer with great heart, I did a little research into typical side effects of cancer treatments.
Typical Side Effects of Cancer Treatments
Besides the dramatic emotional and spiritual effects of being diagnosed with cancer, the physical side effects can be devastating.
It’s no party! Conditions include anemia, appetite loss, bleeding and bruising, constipation, diarrhea, edema, fatigue, hair loss, infection, lymphedema, memory or concentration, nausea and vomiting, neuropathy, pain, sexual dysfunction and infertility, sleep problems, urinary and bladder problems, ….
No wonder we want to help. Besides prayer and sympathy, what can we do?
1) We can offer to be the one to keep their name(s) including caregivers, on the prayer rolls of the Temples, and remind them that they are always in our own personal prayers.
2) Give An Amazing Book: Kitchen Table Wisdom by Naomi Remen, NY Times Best Seller
While thre are many lovely and inspiring Church books with quotes, photos and stories, my favorite to give is one found years ago at the library. Simply-titled and small, I thought would be light hearted and sweet: “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Dr. Naomi Remen. What I had stumbled upon was a profound collection of true, documented stories of cancer patients, as told to this gifted, light-filled soul. First their cancer doctor and second a listening friend, this talented story-teller and writer was the most surprised individual of all when her little book became a beacon of hope for thousands. (The story of how the book came to be is almost as interesting as the book itself.)
Instead of cancer ending her patients’ lives, it opened up a vision of who they were, how their cancer had become the catalyst to create healthier relationships and how they both remembered and created important experiences for themselves and those closest to them after being diagnosed. Their healings, sometimes physical but always spiritual and emotional, are a window into the true gift of life itself and the power of God. Some of these patients passed away, although many of them lived. All of them blessed my life, as has this author. I have laughed and cried my way through this book several times.
Since then, whenever I hear of anyone with cancer, I do my best to get a copy of this book to them. The stories are short and so beautifully written that it’s hard to read just one at a time. It is often just what the individual, family and caregivers need to brighten an afternoon or to fill an empty hour as the stories can be read either silently, or out loud at a bedside.
3) Offer to help with yard and house work, run errands, organize paperwork, tend children, or anything around the home that can be delegated for a time. Help with transportation, for any of the involved family or caregivers, is often extremely needed and welcomed.
4) Provide some meals, as much or more for the caregivers as the individual with cancer. Keep it healthy and light. Make a quick call or text to see if what you’re considering bringing fits in with health and dietary concerns. Overly large portions of rich foods, casseroles, breads or desserts can be a burden and leave your special folks feeling guilty with an overloaded refrigerator or food that spoils, if it cannot all be eaten. Consider the health needs of the caregivers as well as the one with cancer, and send food that fits in with their own health needs as well. Light soups, salads, fruit, and pasta are always appreciated and can be eaten now and later.
Send your offerings in dishes that can be disposed of, i.e. leftover containers from the party or dollar store, sturdy ziplock bags, or other disposable containers, that will not create a responsibility to have returned.
5) Use your talents to do something special: Anything! Here’s a topper to make you laugh and smile! When a young oncology nurse, BYU alumni Holly Christensen, learned of a former roommate’s little daughter with cancer, she prayed about what she could do, and was inspired to crochet this little girl a Disney Princess fancy hair wig/hat. The whole thing has gone viral! It has turned into a blessing for thousands, both those with cancer and those with a desire to do something special to serve. You gotta see the pictures of these little girls at the Magic Yarn Project: CLICK HERE
6) Visit and keep things as normal as possible. Listen, listen, listen! Offer to record or write down stories and memories, remember happy times.
7) Take them shopping for something cute and fun to wear.
8) Throw a scarf party where everyone wears a pretty scarf.
9) Send gift baskets, snack packages and cards often.
10) Laughter, laughter, laughter with movies, hats and kind jokes.
My new friend through Meridian, Melanie Tidwell, author of “Sacred Soul Space,” quickly summarizes the well-known work of Dr. Norman Cousins, a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine. He believed and researched laughter as a biochemical treatment of serious illness. His work inspired others and eventually became the Robin Williams movie “Patch Adams.” Melanie then shares this personal experience:
“When my closest friend, Patty, was dying from the effects of breast cancer, she called me and asked, “Mel, will you speak at my funeral?” I wasn’t ready to consign myself to what seemed to be the inevitable and her request felt to be a tall order, but I would do anything for my sweet friend and told her so. She then laid out her conditions for my talk:
“Mel, people are going to be sad but I don’t want the whole meeting to be focused on the sadness. By that time I will be happy to be free of all the pain. When they think of me, I want them to remember the funny times. When they attend my funeral, I want everyone there to laugh, so that is your job … make ‘em laugh!”
With this directive I knew I had to write the talk before she passed and not knowing exactly when that would happen, I got right on it. Three months later I was standing before the audience at her funeral. My opening line was:
“When Patty was first diagnosed with cancer and was beginning all of the various types of surgeries and procedures to deal with it, I asked what I could do to help. Without hesitation, she said, “you are in charge of my laugh therapy.”
Once Patty deemed me her “laugh therapist” I immediately set out on a queset to gather and send her evry funny card, story, and video clip I could find. One such card I sent her says it all: “A good friend can make you laugh until you pee .. and then make you laugh about that!” With this in mind, all I can say,is Patty was a VERY GOOD friend!”
I have never heard so much laugher at a funeral of a person who was too young to pass as I did at Patty’s.”
George E. Vaillant, a Harvard medical doctor, said that humor “is man’s most elegant coping mechanism.” I know through tough experience, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every person … I also know that “He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (Sacred Soul Space by Melanie Tidwell, pages 153-154.)
Truly, there’s no end to the good that we can do! And remembering that it’s never selfish to take good care of our own health with diet, exercise, rest and listening to our bodies and doctors is just as true and just as important!
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available HERE. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of ten. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson Tennessee, close to Memphis where they center their online business and Carolyn serves in the Primary Presidency.