When you have cancer, people want to help. They don’t know what to do to make your pain go away, but they want to try. Some try in big ways; others in small ways. But, in the end, all of the things people do for you are important, and all say the same thing. "I care about you. I know you're hurting. I want to help."

Just Say Yes! imageYour inclination may be to say, "No thank you." You're tough. You can handle it. You don't need help. My advice to you is this. Get over it. Say yes. You won't regret your decision.

Saying yes is good for two reasons. It helps you, and it helps them. The helping you part is obvious, but the helping them part … maybe not so much. When you are going through cancer, you are suffering in so many ways. There may be physical, emotional and/or mental pain plaguing you every day. But understand this. Those who care about you are hurting, too. In some ways, it's even harder for them, because they are on the outside looking in and often feel quite defenseless. If you let them help, they begin to feel they are contributing to your recovery in some small way. And you just might be surprised how much their little gestures make your days feel so much richer.

When I had cancer, people were constantly offering to help. At first, I resisted, but after talking to someone about how much it meant to her to be able to help, I said yes. What happened after that was simply amazing. Let me share some of my favorite memories with you.

  • A coworker shaved his head as I began chemotherapy. He made it okay for people at work to talk about the effects of chemotherapy, and we all had a few chuckles along the way.
  • Each person in my department purchased their favorite book and presented me with a basket of books. I got to sample some new authors and styles of writing.
  • Friends picked up my children and took them to their house. They had picnic food, jumped on the trampoline and acted like kids for one glorious evening.
  • My children wrote me a song, bought a cake and flowers with their dad, and sang to me on my birthday. It went from being a birthday I dreaded to the favorite birthday of my life.
  • On the day of my last radiation treatment, when I thought everyone had forgotten I was battling cancer, a friend showed up at my house with a bouquet of balloons.

The list goes on and on, but the point in this. Nearly two decades later, I still glow when I tell these stories, because they made such a difference in my life at a time when I most needed it.

So, if you're going through cancer, just say yes. If you are trying to help someone going through cancer, be inventive and think of small gestures that will lighten the load and the spirit.

Share Your Thoughts

How did others help you through your cancer diagnosis and treatment? Did you resist accepting help at first? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Sue Northey is a lifelong Milwaukeean who ventured a whopping 50 miles away to attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees. She loves her home state of Wisconsin, but also loves traveling and learning about different cultures. Sue has spent over 25 years in the field of marketing, working on the client, agency and academic sides of branding and communications. Recently, she leveraged all her knowledge to create Branding Breakthroughs, LLC, a marketing consulting company. Sue was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1999 and underwent both chemotherapy and radiation. Nine years later, she underwent a pericardiectomy to remove the lining of her heart due to damage caused during treatment. If you haven't figured this out yet, Sue embraces every aspect of life ... even more so since having cancer.

Kimberly Yoghourtjian

Hi Sue,
What a helpful post and thank you for it. As the wife of an AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) and Bone Marrow Transplant survivor, I can't tell you how much it meant to us when people offered to help. It not only cheered my husband, but also me, his main caregiver. We counted these gifts as offers of love that filled us with gratitude and happiness. And, the people who offered us help seemed happy to share in the recovery process. Our friends and family, plus many others gave us a blessing that was multiplied over many times. We will always be grateful beyond words for the many dear people who stood along side of us to help us through a difficult journey.

Amy Koch

Sue, what a spot-on post! I, too, have learned to say "yes" when offered help from friends and co-workers. Yes, I could have gone to the store and gotten my own juice and milk just a few days after returning home after my third inpatient chemotherapy treatment. I was physically able to get into my car and walk around the store, but I said "yes" to a former co-worker who gladly went right out and bought my stuff. This past winter break, a colleague asked if she could bring some meals over to put into my freezer. I finally said yes - so during that first week back at work (elementary school), when I was exhausted, I could come home and have a decent meal. I would not have starved if I had said no but not only did I have good food, I also had the comfort of knowing someone wanted to help me. She had the joy of knowing she could be of help. It's a win-win when we say "yes" to offers of help, no doubt.