A personal reflection from the founder.

There isn’t anything easy about cancer. It may be true that the diagnosis and the treatment involve only the patient; but the emotions that go along with it also have a huge impact on the patient’s family and friends.

Hope Happens is about changing the perception of this disease and encouraging an open dialogue between everyone involved. It’s hard for many to confront this illness –and that can make it especially difficult to offer support. Unfortunately, there are some misguided assumptions. The biggest of which is that death is the only outcome, another, whatever can be done is, or has been done. From my experience, these misgivings actually prevent people from offering support. I think people feel they’re being intrusive, or bothersome. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Cancer can often leave you feeling isolated and alone, at times, forgotten.

There is a reality for the people around you, the patient, as well. Your cancer experience may make people in your inner circle feel vulnerable, that it really can happen to anyone.  Perhaps you’re the first person he or she has known that has had cancer… maybe someone they know has died from the illness before… it is a scary word. The fact is, your journey may be too much for some to handle. There may be some people in your life that choose to fade away because of the situation. Happily, you will find there are more people who rally around you – offering whatever support they can. These relationships will leave you feeling energized; blessed….

I hope this section will inspire and help guide those who wish to help someone in their journey.  Adding to that , it may not be just for cancer, perhaps through any adverse life event.

"Small ripples of kindness can help you climb the largest mountains of fear".
- Anwar Knight

For Friends, Colleagues and Family

The first and most important thing to remember is, reach out. I promise you, it doesn’t matter what you say, just making the connection is enough. No one, especially the patient, expects you to cure them, just be there.


WHAT DO I SAY?
Suggestions:
— Say “Hi - I was just thinking of you… is there anything you need? …any household chores that I can help with?"

— Remind that person how special they are and what makes your relationship with them so important.

— Ask them how they are dealing with treatments, knowing that each day may be different.

— Ask them how their spouse, partner, or children are doing.

Bring up a memory…
If it’s a personal visit, bring along a picture or two: maybe of a pet, the family reunion, a special moment, then recall a quick story about it.

One of the most beneficial things you can do, is to offer a heartfelt distraction.


HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Be a treatment buddy.
Co-ordinate some of the hospital visits with family and commit to a certain day(s) that you will drive and attend doctor visits and treatments. This will help break the routine and encourage new, fresh dialogue. You will grow more comfortable with the situation too, because you’ll be more familiar with what’s happening. … and who knows there maybe even a laugh or too?

Share a Hug
There is nothing better to show support than a hug. (Just make sure it’s not right after surgery)

Visit:
Co-ordinate and commit to a specific time to meet, then make it happen. Don't assume they don’t want company, ask.

Suggestion:

* "If you’re up to it, I would really like to visit you on Tuesday at 5pm or Friday at 3pm, do any of those days work? If not,  please let me know a convenient time.”

Share a laugh:
The benefits of laughter are scientifically proven. Whether it’s a movie, TV show, or a good story, if you can make it happen - do it.

Call and or write/email regularly
Technology has made it easier than ever to stay in touch. Don’t worry, you don’t have to write any poetic tributes. One sentence can make a huge difference.
Staying connected may be easier for some than others, but it’s important to remember recovery often takes more time than the treatment itself.   It is uplifting to know that you’re being thought of not only during treatment but long after.

Suggestions:
"Just checking in to see how you are doing today?”
"Thought of you this morning, look forward to seeing you soon."
"Thinking about you ...all good things - hope you’re well"
"I was out for a bit today, and saw this - (magazine/book) - and it made me think of you.  I'm sending you this gift card for an - (online book service). I look forward to finding out what you will be reading."

When making a phone call, don’t be offended if you don’t get a call back. There could be many reasons, fatigue being the most likely. Call back later, your persistence and effort to connect will not go unnoticed.


WHAT NOT TO SAY
You're going to be fine.
Each individual will deal with this disease in a different way. Only the patient him/herself can understand his/her experience. While the goal of Hope Happens is to get us to confront this disease, it likely won’t happen overnight.  However, the standard "you will be fine" can make some people feel that you are diminishing what they are feeling, or dismissing their journey. It may be well intended and positive, but for the person dealing with cancer, it's the fear of the unknown, the what-ifs. What the patient is feeling is very real, it may be frightening. No one has the right to say otherwise.

Offer treatment advice
Please, do not become a graduate of Dr.Google. Internet cures are not welcome. One of the last things a person diagnosed with Cancer wants to hear is treatment advice from someone who is not part of the official treatment team. It's one thing to provide some positive and credible news on successful cancer treatments, but another to assume that you know more than the person’s medical team. There are official treatment protocols – they are based on decades of research.

On the other hand - it is alright to inquire about treatment processes.
[True story]  I once had a colleague prompt me to try a "certain" product, because it helped her dog beat cancer.???

My Aunt died from Cancer
This is the last thing a person dealing with cancer wants to hear. Yes, you may have had a terrible experience with the disease yourself, but your job is to offer support. EVERYONE is different, EVERY cancer diagnosis is different, and EVERY prognosis is different.

What's the survival rate or What's the Prognosis

A person with Cancer deals with these types of questions in their own minds and with their own doctors constantly. Please don't ask them to focus on it beyond that.  

Finally here is a terrific summary to consider.
[It was originally published by Cure Magazine]

LAUGH, LEARN, LOVE
L isten without judging, interrupting, or feeling like you have to say something.
A sk permission to give advice, to visit, to tell others of your friend's problems.
U nderstand that your friend is especially sensitive because of her or his trauma.
G ive it time if your friend doesn't feel like talking or visiting now.
H umor helps almost everyone cope. Funny movies and books can help.

L et go of the myth that everyone dies of cancer; keep hope alive!
E mpathize by trying to remember a time when you were terrified.
A nalyze your audience to determine what your friend needs and enjoys.
R un interference; keep toxic friends away from the person who's suffering.
N o horror stories - ever! They kill hope; people want to hear success stories.

L ove her and show it by considering her needs rather than your own.
O ffer specific help such as picking up groceries or his kids, or doing laundry.
V alidate him by telling him that his feelings, even negative ones, are normal.
E xercise caution by letting her bring up the subject of her health; she may want to forget

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