Listen. Advocate. Support.
These are the three most important things everyone faced with cancer — whether you are a patient, a spouse, a loved one or a friend — should keep in mind, said Tracy Adrian, Radiation Oncology Nurse and Breast Health Navigator for Springfield Regional Cancer Center.
The first thing to do when faced with a diagnosis is listen.
“You definitely want extra ears when you go to appointments,” Adrian advised. “You need family and friends, and you can bring as many for support as you want to really hear the messages. The patients are so nervous. You can talk to them and they just won’t remember everything because they are shocked and it’s overwhelming.”
The next step is to learn as much as you can about the diagnosis. Not every diagnosis and treatment plan are the same, and there are a lot of misconceptions, she said.
You also need to figure out what kind of support the person with cancer wants or needs.
“Some people can be so private about it,” Adrian said. “If you have a good family dynamic, be open and honest and keep them informed so they can help you.”
Beyond just being there and listening, find family members and friends who can help provide meals for the family and help clean their house and drive them to their treatments, Adrian recommended.
Find a support group or support network and get as involved as you can. A few examples:
- Support groups: Springfield’s Pink Ribbon Society meets the first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the Cancer Center. Call 937-323-2545 for more information. Springfield’s Caring Friends meet the third Tuesday each month at noon at The Cancer Center. Call 937-523-8617 for more information.
- Look Good Feel Better program: This program is designed to help offer a self-esteem boost and support in the areas of makeup, skin care, nail care, wigs and how to tie scarves if facing hair loss. Each woman gets a free makeup kit and participants get to build camaraderie. This is a free program for patients and meets monthly. Call 1-800-227-2345 for more information.
- Massage: Sessions are available Thursdays at the Cancer Center and aim to help lessen fatigue, manage stress and reduce pain. Intro sessions are free and additional 30-minute massages available for $10. Call 937-523-8617 for more information.
And of course, there’s the annual Making Strides walk.
“Maybe treat your family members to a massage. Help patients take advantage of those extras,” Adrian said. “Celebrate them being a survivor. It’s a big celebration.”