The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Life is hard enough. Friends can make the journey so much better.

by Jennifer AnandSurvivor, Hodgkin’s LymphomaApril 2, 2019View more posts from Jennifer Anand

Friends can make the journey so much better. Over the last few years, I’ve had a number of good-hearted friends who knew I had cancer ask me how they can help/support other cancer peeps that have come into their lives, so I’ve compiled a list:

Gift cards


Food is always helpful. A professor who was part of my string ensemble brought dinner for my family. She’s a self-proclaimed non-cook but wanted to help out. She bought some chicken strips, bottled pasta sauce and pasta, loaf of bread and pesto, and a cake. All of it was ready-made from the grocery store. But the fact that she thought about us and wanted to show her love through a meal- still one of our most fondly remembered meals. No way she’s getting a Michelin star, but she’s first rate in our hearts. Buy a frozen lasagna and some side dishes or order some pizza or buy a box of cinnamon rolls. It’s not about the fanciness, it’s about the fact that you took the time to think about and bring some food.


Let’s re-circle to that low-energy thing. Pay for a housekeeper, or just go over and clean! Something as simple as running a vacuum, which you may not think twice about, can be a herculean task for someone in treatment. Also, with cancer it becomes even more important to have a clean environment, so help them out!


The design team I was part of in school arranged to come to my house (since I couldn’t go anywhere). They bought me a board game and came over and played for a few hours. The security of my own house allowed me to dictate how involved I could be. And when I retired to the couch, they kept playing with my siblings!


A few clubs from the Honors College at Akron also wanted to visit. They brought a giant stack of DVDs they had checked out of the library, as well as a bag of popcorn and some movie candy boxes for an in-home movie night!


I’m listing this from a sibling point of view. I know they often get left behind and are certainly not in the focus. Our neighbors took my siblings out to swim and dinner on a few occasions, and also had them over, even if it was as simple as baking some cake together! If your friends have kids, offer to take them out to the park, or a movie, or a museum to give them a chance to get out of the house and the cancer peep some quiet/alone time. Another option would be to watch the kids at their house- play a game or make cookies together to entertain them!


Ask how you can help them. I blew-up like a balloon from the steroids, and also felt incredibly uncomfortable from my clothes rubbing against my sensitive skin. April asked what I needed, then went to the thrift store and bought me a whole new wardrobe in way bigger sizes than I typically wore. She bought baggy, loose fitting, but still nice looking clothes for me. These clothes helped me be comfortable at the hospital, and not have to wear the hospital gowns.

Warm things

Cancer gives you low blood oxygen, which can make you very cold.

Visit – (check out my post on Visitors)

But not if you have a cold or don’t feel well. In that case, stay as far away as possible!


My friend Leah and her brother Caleb visited me in the hospital. Unfortunately, due to crazy hospital scheduling and stuff, I ended up in an MRI for most of their visit, and then just slept for the rest of their visit. They drove an hour to see me. They were both in college, in engineering, so I know they didn’t have free time galore, if any. Leah knew me only a little bit, and Caleb barely knew me at all.

But they came. That meant the world (and still does) to me. I felt horrible for sleeping the entire visit after all the trouble they took to visit. And then- a few weeks later, Leah called to see if she could visit- again.  After the last time, I was shocked that she would still offer to make that long drive, on the chance I would sleep a second visit away! We compromised with a Skype visit. She set up her laptop in her kitchen, as she made lemon bars. I love baking, so we had a wonderful time talking as she baked!

Leah’s friendship and kindness helped me realize there is no excuse to not reaching out and being there for cancer peeps. She was a college student, with limited time and finances. Yet, she was willing to give up most of her Saturday to drive far away and spend her gas money on me- a girl she wasn’t super close with (at the time!) and had nothing to offer her back. Thank you, Leah.

There’s a Facebook post I see often. It says “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” If we all took just a few minutes a day to think of others and be kind to them, our world would be a better place.

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