Why Your Cancer-Survivor Friend Still Needs You (and how you can help)

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By Marissa Henley, local cancer survivor and author of Loving Your Friend Through Cancer

I’ve lived through the scene several times: I sit across from a cancer survivor who recently finished treatment. We wrap our hands around our lattes and lean in close so the guy in the next booth won’t hear our discussion of post-mastectomy life.

And then she says, “Everyone around me thinks I’m better. They’ve all moved on. But I’m not okay. I need my friends to understand I’m still struggling.”

If you’re friends with a cancer survivor, she still needs you. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you support her through her survivorship.

1.  She’s still living with cancer.

sad womanEven when your friend hears those sweet words “no evidence of disease,” or is in remission or cured, she is still living with the physical effects of cancer.

If she’s had chemo, she may not fully recover her strength for a year. It could be even longer before her she’s truly happy with the length of her hair, and her short hair will be a constant reminder of what she’s endured.

She may be adjusting to the changes that come from surgery, especially if she’s had a mastectomy, colostomy or other life-altering surgery. Many recent cancer survivors find themselves in the operating room for follow-up reconstructive surgeries. Your friend’s body, like her medical history, may never be the same.

You can support your friend by being sensitive to her feelings, her need for rest, and the time it takes her to adjust to these changes. Be careful when you talk about your own healthy body—she may not want to hear any complaints! And if she needs follow-up surgery, show up with dinner afterwards.

2.  She’s still scared.

After the physical scars heal and her energy returns, she will continue to live with the emotional changes that come with cancer survivorship.

As her friends and family celebrate the end of her treatment, she may not feel like cheering. She may struggle with grief over what she’s endured and fear about what’s to come.

The possibility of recurrence provokes anxiety in most cancer survivors.  Our fear may or may not be grounded in statistics. But the fear is intense, and some days it feels like a giant cloud hanging over our entire future. Every lump, every bump, every ache or pain can be cause for concern. It feels like the line between paranoia and wisdom is impossible to find.

One way to show concern for your friend’s emotional well-being is to ask questions rather than make assumptions. Ask how she’s handling the end of treatment. Ask how holidays, birthdays and the anniversary of her diagnosis make her feel. Make sure she knows you’re still in this with her.

3. She still hates going to the doctor.

My doctors are fabulous, but I wish I never had to set foot in a medical clinic again. I can never take for granted that I’ll walk into a doctor’s office and walk out without life-changing news. Every symptom gets a follow-up test. Anything suspicious gets biopsied. I appreciate the vigilance of my doctors, but it can be stressful.

There are also medical appointments directly related to my history of cancer. The dreaded follow-ups. For some survivors, their follow-up consists of letting their oncologist know of any unusual symptoms. Some have bloodwork done regularly. I’m in the category of survivors who have scans done to check for recurrence.

These appointments are so terrifying that we’ve coined our own word for the fear: scanxiety. If you’ve never sat in a doctor’s office waiting to hear if your cancer is back, believe me—it’s as awful as you are imagining.

You can support your cancer-surviving friend by knowing her follow-up protocol. Mark the dates on your calendar, and let her know she’s in your thoughts and prayers as the day approaches. Ask how she’s coping with medical appointments and how you can support her.

4. She still needs your support and prayer.

rp_loving-your-friend-through-cancer-marissa-henley-188x300.jpgSome cancer survivors want to talk about their experience, spend time with other cancer survivors, and participate in cancer research fundraisers. Others want nothing to do with cancer and distance themselves from these activities. Your friend may swing between the two approaches at different times during her survivorship.

Remember to ask questions about her feelings and respect your friend’s choices. Support her new friendships with cancer survivors. If she attends Race for the Cure or fundraisers for her cancer type, participate with her.

And finally, keep your friend in your prayers. Cancer takes an ugly toll on the bodies, families, and futures of so many. Your friend will appreciate your continued prayers and support as she walks through the challenges of life as a survivor.

Marissa Henley headshotMore about Marissa: Marissa Henley, author of Loving Your Friend Through Cancer, is a follower of Christ, wife, mom, and cancer survivor who writes about faith, friendship, and cancer at www.marissahenley.com. Most days, you’ll find her drinking a latte while shuttling her three kids around in a minivan, wondering if the dog will ever learn to stay and if she’ll ever love cooking as much as her husband loves eating.

Clearance Sale at Metro Appliances this weekend

If you’d love a great excuse to get a new appliance (or two), you’ve got it. Metro Appliances & More, one of our awesome sponsors, is having a big clearance sale starting this Thursday through Saturday, August 25 – 27th.big_sale_tag

Did you know Metro is building a new, HUGE showroom right off Interstate 49? It should be ready later this fall, so that’s one of the reasons they’re having a clearance sale — to lighten the load of moving inventory to the new location.

Appliances with red tags will be 20 to 50% off and immediate delivery (or pick–up) is required after the sale. Metro is currently located at 5700 N. Thompson in Springdale. For more info about this weekend’s sale event, call the store at 479-750-2200.

Happy shopping, mamas!

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The best snow cone stands in Northwest Arkansas!

snow cone graphic from printableUPDATED for Summer 2016: We love a sweet, syrupy snow cone on a hot summer day!

snow coneWe rounded up a list of where you can find great snow cones throughout Northwest Arkansas. If you don’t see your favorite snow cone stand on the list, email us and let us know where it is!

Click HERE to download a printer-friendly version of this list. Keep it in your purse or car so you’ll know where to go for an icy treat.

Note: We’ve linked to as many of the businesses below as possible so you can visit their Facebook page to check for hours of operation (and list of flavors) before you visit.

Fayetteville:

Shave the Planet: 3078 N. College Ave. (Next to the Bank of Fayetteville and Hobby Lobby)

Tropical Sno: 464 E. Joyce Blvd. (near TJ Maxx and Best Buy)

Springdale:

Shave the Planet: 1308 N. Thompson (Across from AQ Chicken and Kum&Go)

Shave the Planet: 2940 W. Sunset Ave. (in front of Malco Theater and Harps grocery store)

Lowell:

The Ice Box (formerly Sugar Shack): 1115 N. Dixieland Rd. (in the Golf Mountain parking lot)

Rogers:

The Frozen Coconut: 718 N. 2nd St. (across from Harps, near the Rogers Activity Center)

The Ice Box (formerly Cam’s Mountain Sno): Walnut Rd. (in the Frisco Station Mall parking lot near Hobby Lobby)

Brain Freeze Sno & Whips: 4205 S. Pleasant Crossing Blvd. (in the Burlington parking lot)

Bentonville:

The Chill Zone: 214 NE “A” St. (by the Lawrence Plaza Splash Pad)

Brain Freeze of Bentonville: 200 SW Regional Airport Blvd. (just off Rainbow Curve)

Frozen Tung: 604 Southwest A Street

Kona Ice: Shaved ice truck that travels around Northwest Arkansas (Call for today’s location.)

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Beyond the Casserole: How to Take a Meal to Your Sick Friend like a Rock Star

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By Marissa Henley, local cancer survivor and author of Loving Your Friend Through Cancer

In previous posts in this series, we’ve looked at ways to provide emotional support and practical service for a friend with cancer. Close, inner-circle friends will care for most emotional and logistical needs, but those in the outer circles also wonder how they can help.

Even if you aren’t besties with your friend who has cancer, you still have a role to play in her support network.

You have three responsibilities:

1. Pray.

2. Communicate support.

3. Bring food.

If you’ve been an adult for awhile, you’ve probably taken a meal to a new mom. But the needs of women with cancer are different. You’re not dropping in on a smiling (but exhausted) woman cradling a newborn—in fact, you may not see your friend with cancer at all when you deliver a meal. Your friend’s family may be receiving meals for several months, not just a few weeks. She may have strict dietary restrictions or preferences that need to be considered. When you take dinner, you have an opportunity to love your friend well and show your concern.

Here are some ideas for those who want to take a meal like a rock star:

1. Take a family recipe. Ask the patient or someone close to her if they can pass along one of her favorite recipes. If she has small children or picky eaters at home, they will be comforted by familiar foods.

My family received more than 100 meals when I had cancer, and the most memorable was the casserole that my friend Sarah made for us. She asked for one of my go-to recipes. She was willing to cook something that was new to her, but familiar to us. No amount of chemo-induced nausea could keep me from the dinner table that evening!

paper plates2. Bring paper plates. Do you enjoy washing dishes? Your friend doesn’t, either. And she probably doesn’t have the time or energy to finish that chore. She may not have extra money to spend on paper plates. Bring a large package of them with your meal, and you’ll put a smile on her face!

3. Include breakfast, lunch and snack foods. Your friend will be so thankful that you brought dinner. But her family probably wants to eat three (or more) times a day. Consider bringing healthy, ready-to-serve items for breakfast, snacks or school lunches.

Not only will you save her time and energy, you will save her money at the grocery store. When you’re spending money on co-pays and deductibles, lower food expenses are a blessing!

4. Leave your kids at home. If your friend is recovering from surgery or receiving chemo, she needs extra protection from germs. And while I’m sure your children never pick their nose or lick the slide at Chick-fil-a, your friend will benefit from being exposed to as few people as possible. You also want to keep her home calm and quiet in case she’s resting.

Whenever possible, leave your children at home or in the car while you deliver the meal. And if anyone in your home is sick, let your friend know before going to her home.

5. Offer to return dishes. Please take your meal in disposable containers. The last thing she needs right now is to keep everyone’s dishes straight and return them. If you must take a dish you need back, label it with your name and tell her you’ll stop by in a few days to retrieve it.

If you want to go the extra mile, ask if others have left dishes that need to be returned and offer to return them for her. She will appreciate your help with this task!

One last thing to keep in mind: if you are hesitant to take a meal because your cooking skills are like mine (terrible!), consider grabbing a pizza or take-out from their favorite restaurant. When I was sick, some of my husband’s colleagues ordered a pizza for us every Tuesday, and it was my kids’ favorite day of the week! Your thoughtfulness in serving your friend by meeting her family’s basic needs will far outweigh your shortcomings as a chef.

Your friend needs to know she’s loved and supported even more than she needs dinner.

When you meet her need for a hot meal, you also communicate your concern. You let her know she is not forgotten or alone in this fight. So keep taking those casseroles like a rock star until your friend is healthy and standing at her stove again.

Marissa Henley headshotMore about Marissa: Marissa Henley, author of Loving Your Friend Through Cancer, is a follower of Christ, wife, mom, and cancer survivor who writes about faith, friendship, and cancer at www.marissahenley.com. Most days, you’ll find her drinking a latte while shuttling her three kids around in a minivan, wondering if the dog will ever learn to stay and if she’ll ever love cooking as much as her husband loves eating.