The month of October in Australia (and in many places around the world) is flagged as “Breast Cancer Awareness month”. All shades of pink grace storefronts, businesses and organisations as they rally to bring solidarity and support to a universally prevalent disease that affects so many individuals and families in our communities.
This Thursday at Sisterhood across Australia, several thousand women, of all age and demographic, will gather and rally to raise awareness and offer solutions — especially in the realm of love and support for those suffering directly or indirectly. The challenge of how to help is real for all of us, so within the morning will be brave contenders and their stories of hope. The morning will be sensitive, informative and hopeful… with the door wide open and our “welcome mat” out for anyone who would like to join us.
Some of our team have formatted a few insights below, because when encountering or encouraging someone in a battle for their health, questions present such as “what should I know?”, “what can I say?”, “how can I help?”. So, if you are standing alongside someone who is walking this road at present, here are some practical tips:
What should I know?
Be informed. Seek sound information about the diagnosis and the various stages a person will go through on this journey. Seek wisdom from a counsellor or healthcare professional about how best to support them.
What can I say?
Don’t worry about getting your words of empathy perfect. Genuine care and concern will be felt, even if you admit that you are unsure what to say or what to do.
A good question to ask is – “How are you doing today?”. It’s a lot easier for someone to talk about their day rather than the entire landscape of what is happening.
Don’t dismiss personal feelings of fear or doubt. Whilst your desire may be to be faith-filled, positive and hopeful, such statements need to be shared with wisdom and sensitivity. If you are not a medic, refrain from offering medical advice or personal opinions. Keep those you love connected to everyday life. It will help them to not feel isolated or forgotten, and hopefully will help them to smile a little amid the challenge and ordeal.
How can I help?
The reality of cancer is unique for everyone, so support may also look different for different people. Some will be direct caregivers, others will play a supporting role. Everyone has different capacity, coping mechanisms, and availability in being able to offer assistance — but if you do offer to be of help, make sure you follow through.
- Set up a meal-roster for the family.
- Drive your friend or loved one to treatments.
- Offer to look after their children (even helping to prep school lunches or their morning tea will help).
- Take them out. Do some normal things. See a movie, have lunch or coffee, go for a short walk.
- Check in consistently – don’t overwhelm with texts or phone calls, but keep letting them know you are thinking of them and praying for them.
- Offer to sit and chat, or just listen if that’s what they need.
- Speak directly with the patient, not just their spouse or partner.
- Don’t forget the family – some may be bearing the heavy load of caregiver, and this can take it’s own toll. Children can also feel isolated or forgotten, so find ways to look out for them also.
Don’t do the journey alone
If you are caring for a loved one who is suffering serious illness, or if you are going through a health battle yourself, can we also encourage you to not do the journey alone. There are pathways of help. Do everything you can to position yourself within a caring and healthy community of believers who will walk with you, pray with you, stand in faith with you, speak words of life over you, and help in whatever way they can. Every battle is unique, but as you draw near to Jesus, he is faithful to draw near to you. His Word and His Holy Spirit are always real and trustworthy.
May you sense the love and concern of the Lord Jesus in this current season.