How to Help When a Friend's Child Has Cancer

The Glow Family
September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, and I hate that it is because those words just shouldn't go together. Kids shouldn't get cancer, plain and simple, but heartbreakingly they do.

Several children from my son's school have battled it, and it's always there lurking, making us all wonder -- who will be next? When it does pick its next victim, we ache and empathize because we know how easily it could have been our child, and we want nothing more than to reach out and do something to help the affected family. Too often though we feel helpless and don't know what to do. I know I've been paralyzed in this way before and look back and wish I'd done more. 

My dear friend Kathy Glow lost her beautiful son, Joey, two years ago to "the beast." While there was nothing anyone could do to save him, at her blog, Kissing the Frog, she talks about some helpful things people did during their fight.


She includes things like: 

  • Send a gift card for food, gas, or groceries. These families are often running back and forth from doctors’ appointments and treatments. After a long day at the hospital, it’s helpful to pick up food and not have to worry about cooking. And if treatment means travel to a larger city, the gas card comes in handy, as well as access to a quick meal.
  • Organize meals to be brought into the home. Sites like Meal Train and Take Them a Meal make keeping track of meals a snap. Each participant can see exactly what others brought and when, and there are no phone calls to make. The family can also keep track of what is coming and when.
  • Volunteer to run errands. All the little things in life become so unimportant when your child is battling cancer. You run out of milk and toilet paper, your shirts sit at the dry cleaners for weeks, and your pet just doesn’t get groomed. If it’s something little that still needs to be done, offer to do it.
  • If you know the family well enough, show up. Show up at the hospital during treatments to keep the family company or grab them some coffee or lunch. Show up to their house and do some laundry or vacuuming. Take their other children to the park or out for ice cream (they need lots of love and attention during this time, too). Offer to sit with their sick child so they can take a breather. Show up after dinner and clean up the kitchen. Most families hesitate to ask for this kind of help. Just do it for them.
  • Spread awareness. September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and September 13 is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. Wear a gold ribbon in support of a family battling cancer with their child.

You can read her entire list of suggestions and her heart-wrenching, but beautifully told story in full at her blog. But I think the main takeaway is that we do something when we know a family facing pediatric cancer. So often I think we feel like our small contribution or little gesture of kindness won't matter, or that the family is too enmeshed in their grief to really want us to get involved, but that's typically not the case. To a family battling such deep darkness and despair, any bit of help or kindness is usually a bright and welcome spot of light.

How have you helped a family whose child is battling cancer?


Image via Kissing the Frog

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