Pink water in fountains, pink out football games, pink socks, pink ribbons. By now, we all know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the time of year when we wear pink to raise awareness and show our support. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to bring awareness that breast cancer exists and women should get mammograms and do monthly self-exams. There’s more we can do to support women (and men) who are battling this disease for the first time, or second. Here are some tips for what you can do beyond wearing pink.
One way to help is to donate time or money to trusted organizations like the American Breast Cancer Foundation, Chemo Angels, or the Breast Cancer Resource Center. Locally, the Zimmer Cancer Center at New Hanover Regional Medical Center offers a cancer support group for cancer patients and survivors. They meet the second Tuesday of every other month. (February, April, June, August, October & December).
Most money donated to breast cancer charities goes to basic research. It’s great to donate to research, but metastatic breast cancer research initiatives go beyond basic research, but receive far less funding. So, giving to organizations such as StandUp2Cancer and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation that are looking for cures for breast cancer among others, will make a big impact in the lives of women fighting to live.
Do you know someone who has cancer? If so, they probably have not asked for help. Here’s where you come in. Just help. Take their dog for a walk, make a grocery store run, make them a meal, take their kids to soccer practice, clean their bathroom, drive them to an appointment, or just get them out of the house if they are feeling up to it. Don’t wait for them to ask you for help, because they probably won’t.
Donations of new blankets, hats, and scarves are a warm welcome to patients undergoing chemo treatment. Even if you don’t personally know someone who is having treatments, you can still ask a local oncologist about donating items for them to distribute to patients who are in their care. This act of kindness will warm the patient in more ways than one.
As mentioned above, sometimes you just need to offer help. And another way of helping is by offering rides to patients getting chemo who do not have anyone to drive them to their appointment. If you know someone directly, ask about their appointment time and offer to take them. Or, maybe it’s a friend of a friend. You can also contact a social worker to lend a hand to someone you don’t know, but who has the greatest need.
A little note of encouragement can go a long way. Whether it’s for a neighbor or friend across the country, a card or hand written note to let them know you are thinking of them, can mean a lot. Even a note of cheer for someone you don’t know at a cancer treatment center can help brighten their day knowing that someone cares.
With funding being cut from the federal budget for cancer research, calling or writing your congressman can make a difference. Changes in health care laws have caused confusion as to what treatment methods and medications are covered by insurance. Even some necessary pain medications are being withheld because of overprescribing concerns by physicians. And insurance companies won’t pay for some anti-nausea medications because they are too expensive. This means that for many who are at the end of their life, they are not getting the pain relief that they need to ease their suffering.
Above all else, listen. When someone comes to you and tells you they have cancer (or even if you find out through the grapevine), simply respond by saying you are sorry and that you are there to listen. Don’t ask questions like what they may have done to cause it or imply that it must be their diet, lifestyle, or whatever. Just be their friend and let them know that they don’t always have to act brave.