When a child receives a diagnosis of cancer, it is a devastating and difficult beginning to a long path of treatment. Here are three ways you can support a family or loved one who has a child with a cancer diagnosis.
Give Tangible Support
If possible, communicate to the family you will be doing a certain household task or errand for them. DO not ask what you can do, just give options of when and what you will do because families are in crisis mode and often will not reach out to tell you what they need. For example, tell them you are going to come mow their lawn and ask good times to do so. Tell them you are making a trip to the grocery store today or tomorrow and ask for a list. Let them know you are going to pick up their other children for a weekend away with your family and ask if one of two or three weekends will work.
Because cancer requires a lot of appointments, procedures and waiting, families have a lot of needs at the hospital. Send meal delivery gift cards, support the family with gas cards, or send care packages for the parent(s) and child. Ask if it would be appropriate to come and visit or sit with them or their child at any point. Another way you can support a family is to help give them a couple of support resources like childhood leukemia support groups or assistance to families.
Look Down the Road
Many times, the family will experience an outpouring of tangible and emotional support from their loved ones initially. However, childhood cancer, even in the best-case scenarios, is a long and drawn out journey and many times it is those times after the first few weeks or months where the family is in the throes of treatment and stress but the support often reduces. Reach out initially to let them know you care but perhaps do a lot of concerted efforts to support the family several weeks or months after the initial diagnosis.