…Who Has Been Diagnosed With a Terminal Illness
Marcie was a friend of mine who was in her mid-40’s. She was newly married, raising a 1-year old boy, and enjoying the prime of her life. In one day all that changed – she was diagnosed with lung cancer (though she wasn’t a smoker). Suddenly her life was filled with exhausting treatments, doctors’ visits, a battle to survive, and then an acceptance that she would not live through the year.
What I saw others do: Someone offered to take her son on outings so she would have time to rest. Others took her to doctor’s appointments. Still others just came over to sit and listen to her anger and frustration. As her illness progressed, teams of friends would show up to bathe her – even though that must have been the most humbling thing, Marcie took it in stride, even finding a way to laugh about it.
With a different friend of mine who was dying, I noticed that her family put one person in charge of her calendar. So, if people called offering to make a meal, the administrative person could say, “Yes, can you bring it on this day.” If she needed caretakers for the children or someone to sit with the ill person, the scheduler could do that as well. All calls were directed to one phone number so my ill friend didn’t have to make all the decisions, and she didn’t have to feel rude by telling people no to meals and other things.
One bit of advice I give, is to always offer people the option. Don’t just say, “Hey, I’m coming to the hospital to see you.” I tried that once (with a different dying friend), got to the door, and as I started to enter she asked me to leave. It was important to her that people remembered her as the “Living Molly.”
If your friend does want visitors, keep your visits short. Let her know if you’d like to bring food. Sometimes people get too much food, or have particulars about what they like to eat. Consider bringing cookies that can be frozen and offered later to other guests. Or individual kid meals that can easily be heated up. Assure her that you don’t you don’t expect her to entertain you, and you certainly don’t care about a clean house.
Another tip would be, “Don’t be afraid to talk about death.” At the same time, don’t focus on it. Sometimes the ill person needs a break from reality and just wants to hear the good things going on in your life.
Try to think outside the box. Imagine yourself being laid up and what you might want. Maybe it would be for someone to bring you a CD player and some books on tape. Or perhaps it’s offering massage, or pedicure, or haircut in her home. When the holidays are near, she would probably treasure someone to help her get gifts and wrap them. Or maybe she needs someone to write thank you notes.
Lasty, one of my dying friends signed up for a Internet blog special for breast cancer survivors. She was able to post updates on the site so friends could check on her. They could also post comments of encouragement.
The list is endless…..please share with my readers some of the things you have done to help a sick friend.