Elephants And Tea - March 2021 - 43

BY L AU R A L A NG -R E E

Your child was just diagnosed with cancer and my heart
goes out to you. Diagnosis day is a day forever imprinted
in your soul - " D-Day " in our house: January 6th, 1999.
I'll never forget that wash of shock, fear and utter paralysis
when our daughter's Oncologist called us at home with
the news: Cecilia had leukemia.
As much as you want to crawl back under the
blankets after getting that call, life in the childhood cancer world very quickly demands that
you wake up, pay very close attention, and get
organized as you become the unwitting advocate and gatekeeper for your child's treatment
years and follow-up care. And nobody really
tells you that this is what you've signed up for,
at least not in the medical community - they
are busy saving your child's life, after all. After
those first few days in the hospital for diagnosis, we were clearly expected to quickly get
our shit together - what choice do you have as
a parent of a kid with cancer? We felt the overwhelming need for help and had no clue how to
ask for it or exactly what we needed help doing
- besides everything .
Your child getting cancer is a prett y
unexpected and heroic call to action - and
I'm fairly sure you didn't sign up for Hero
Duty. I sure didn't. Cecilia survived, thanks
to an incredible medical, friend and family
team. But it was a three year odyssey into
hell and back. A few short months after her
liberation from cancer, my incredible Dad our hero and constant support throughout
treatment - was diagnosed with esophageal
cancer and I found myself bouncing from
being hero support for my daughter, to my
Dad. So I know a thing or two about what
it's like to be a caregiver to someone you
love. The anxiety. The fear. The omnipresent grip of despair. You feel like you have
to do it all, because you are their person, or
because you think you have all the current
data, or because you convince yourself that
if you just try a little bit harder, you can fix
them. People call you heroic or say " I could
never do what you're doing " . I don't know
about you, but I don't recall anybody giving
me a choice.

Sound familiar? Might this be you? I
understand. And I learned so much from
those years with my daughter, who survived, and my Dad, who died from cancer.
You can do this better.
Asking for help does not come naturally
to most of us, even less so when you are
under the intense stress of a new cancer
diagnosis. How do you know what to ask
for when you can't even form a sentence?
Over time and with lots of trial and error,
I learned that help comes in many forms
and evolves as you find resources, develop trust with certain new and old friends
and most importantly, figure out what you
need. Because you already are a hero. And
even heroes need support, a squad, back-up.
This article is meant to provide some
out-of-t he box t hink ing about what to
ask for and how to develop your needs list
and hero-support team as a caregiver of
a loved one with cancer. Many of the following tactics we used during treatment I
utilized years later when a friend or family
member had their own crisis. I can tell you
from both the giving and receiving ends,
they work.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY
When your loved one is diagnosed with
cancer, your friends and family are in despair
too. Grandparents suffer, close friends and
their children do as well. Sometimes their
fear results in silence or a seeming absence
from your life as they navigate their own
feelings and process their own fears. This
can be hard to witness in people you love,
and that you thought loved you back. Try to
remember that the 'c' word freaks everybody
out, and friends and family don't get what
you are going through. How could they?

Instead of suffering in silence, empower
them. Tell them what you need! In the first
week or two, let one person you love and
trust be your point and have them organize
life for you. Remember this - people LOVE
a job and generally want to help, so here's
what to ask for:
Groceries & Other errands
Set up a Google Doc and let a friend or family
member send it out once or twice a week.
Remember to add all those little errands that
need to be done - pick up the dry cleaning,
drop off a package, etc.
People will sometimes offer to pay for
those groceries and errands. Let them and
pay it forward later.
Meal Prep
Assign one friend or family member to set
up your needs on a site like mealtrain.com,
where you can specify your families wishes
for meals and the appropriate days and times
for delivery.
Set up a very large cooler outside your
front door for deliveries. You may want to
chat, you may not, or you simply might be
at the hospital. A cooler gives you options.
Along with the cooler, put a sign over the
doorbell that says " nap time! " to preserve
the quiet.
Updates
Everybody wants an update and talking
on the phone or sharing on social media
might be great for you, or just way too much
to handle during treatment, especially in
the beginning weeks. Let a friend, family
member, or beloved teenager in the neigh-

Cecilia's best friend Tegan always gave Cecilia
something to look forward to at home or at the
hospital and was fearless at showing her love.
Having friends like this for your child, is crucial in
helping them just be a kid.

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
MARCH 2021

43


http://www.mealtrain.com http://www.ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM

Elephants And Tea - March 2021

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