Friends in crisis

I have a friend, her husband’s cancer seems to be escalating. I don’t know how else to say it. He had a successful surgery a year ago but now has some metastatic spots that seem to be popping up with a vengeance. It’s been a lot of bad news in a hurry.

It’s hard, things are moving fast and she’s of course overwhelmed and I think in denial.

She’s also a person who is not good at talking about “stuff”. I’m good with that. As our mutual friend told me, her journey is hers alone, you can’t be in her journey nor can you relate to it. Wise words.

Saying all this, how do you try and support a friend who’s life is spiraling?

I sent a nice text and I’m bringing over dinner.

Any suggestions for dinner? I’m terrible at this.

I feel like I’m failing as a friend. She’s a good friend but not one that I would reach out to all the time.

Dinner is a great idea. If you find it hard to talk personal in person, maybe even send a card or texts and just say “I’m thinking of you and Jim - don’t hesitate to reach out at a drop of a hat if you need something”. Recognize the situation but don’t dwell on it if she doesn’t want to talk.

Text her when you’re at the grocery store and ask if she needs anything. (assuming she is close by).

Dinner ideas - do you know what they like or have you been out to restaurants with them? Even a prepared casserole frozen is great - she can pull it out when needed and bake it at home. Or frozen soup.

Even good friends don’t always know how to be the perfect friend. Especially during these scary times.

Restaurant gift cards could be good in addition to a meal for take out or delivery. Sometimes a family going through a crisis appreciates the flexibility and “independence” of ordering what they want, when they want.

I went through a bad bout with cancer a few years back. What I appreciated the most were the friends who kept in touch with me. I really loved getting a short email or a text from a friend on a regular basis. The good friends understood when I couldn’t respond right back to them. All meals were appreciated, but I did love the gift certificates for takeout from the local restaurants.

Did your friend tell you about the metastases, or someone else?

It depends, but “spots” like there aren’t necessarily a sign of imminent death. I would actually find the casseroles etc. a little scary for the implication. (I have also dealt with cancer and am waiting for the shoe to drop myself.)

If your friend told you about this new development, I would email to say you are thinking of them and are there if they need anything.

If your friend did not tell you, then I would wait until she does and otherwise carry on normally.

In fact, sometimes, when illness is involved, carrying on normally can be the most comforting.

I think just staying in touch, is enough (along with an occasional dinner) for your friend to know she is supported and not alone. Along with the casserole idea, I would suggest a few homemade frozen meals that can be pulled out when needed, ie:

comforting soup(s)
veg stew (ratatouille)
chili & cornbread
spaghetti & meatballs

along with the above, also provide a few frozen homemade breads, biscuits and cookies. At the beginning of a ‘crisis’ people can be overwhelmed with food, if yours is frozen, it is there when really needed.

Regardless of the food, your friend will just appreciate being held in your thoughts and knowing you are there.

Thanks for all of the words of support and encouragement. I think that this isn’t a fun topic but I really appreciate the time that it took to respond here.

My friend’s husband has been very upfront as to what is happening. He had treatment and surgery a year ago, everything seemed great. A couple of weeks ago, he started having seizures and a MRI found 6 spots that moved to his brain Ok, things sounded encouraging enough, radiation, maybe targeted to the biggest tumor. This past week, after the PET scan, he was having pain and balance problems, they found 2 more tumors on his spine. So the hospital did emergency radiation on Sunday and now 4 more days of radiation.

So this has all been within the past month. I don’t know what his prognosis is and I’m hopeful for a good outcome. But it’s been a lot in a hurry.

My friend indicated that she is grateful for dinner help. The husband does all of the cooking and they have been traveling an hour away for treatment this past month. The husband posted (on Facebook) that another friend brought over sweets.

Personally and this is only my opinion, I’m being much stricter than they are in response to social distancing.

I am making baked ziti, I bought some cut up fruit and I made a small cake. You can always eat fruit and the ziti can be frozen. The cake can be thrown out if they don’t want it.

It is very hard to be socially distanced when you are interacting with 20+ medical personnel every time you have an appointment. I’ve got a family member doing chemo right now- the center has all the precautions, nobody can come sit with the patient, they text you when it’s ok to get into the elevator- etc. But still- a nurse sets you up, a tech monitors you for an allergic reaction, the dietitian shows up if your weight has dropped since your last treatment, the social worker pops in to make sure you don’t need referrals for a mental health consult or to get you a transportation voucher for a cab if you don’t own a car… the list goes on and on. And of course- the heroes of any medical center- the janitorial staff which is sanitizing handrails and toilets and the check in counter and the plexiglass hundreds of times a day.

So be kind when watching their “strictness” on social distancing. Through no fault of their own, their contact list expands aggressively every single hospital admission. And a PET scan? Another ten people. A radiation treatment? More people- just moving the gurney around the hospital is a team effort…

Sorry but no, no, no that’s not what I meant. I didn’t want to make my post longer than it already was. Someone suggested that maybe I shouldn’t bring food over because of cancer and germs.

My point wasn’t that my friend and her husband weren’t socially distancing because of medical procedures but they haven’t been that concerned about their other personal interactions. They know he is immunocompromised but are staying in hotels, eating inside restaurants, going on vacation. So that I didn’t feel that they would be upset about the offer of dinner. That’s all.

I apologize if anyone thought I was being judgmental about medical procedures. I’m not being judgmental about anything but explaining that dinner would be welcomed.

I hope that explains my train of thought.

I think you are doing a good job. Check in with a text daily, offer to listen, drop off food. Cooking will kill corona. Other opportunities to help may pop up. Your friend may mention something, like she ran out of milk or forgot to pick up something she ordered. Maybe even be the one to organize the other friends if needed? Sometimes one person puts together a meal calendar.

My H had cancer 20 something years ago and I welcomed every casserole and meal gift card. My kids were little and we were new in town. I liked knowing people were thinking about us and the help came in handy.

I dropped off dinner, it was very much appreciated. They hadn’t received a ton of food so she was happy to not have to think about it.

We talked about our mutual bad golf game. Hers is better than mine, we both like to complain about it ?

You sound like a great friend. Agree that setting up one of the online chores/errands/meal calendars might be a great kindness (truly, the technology is not that hard… the sites walk you through the hard part). And then rather than have your friend get bombarded with the “what can I do” phone calls- just email everyone with the site and the password and they can sign up for what they want, when they want.

And the site emails you the day before your chore!!!

For travel to and time at medical facilities, perhaps gas gift cards, healthy snacks, reading material (gift downloads, whatever) for waiting rooms?

+1 to the meal train idea. Good way for people to feel useful in an organized fashion. Also, with the online apps it is easy to set up and can also incorporate the family’s food preferences, likes and dislikes making it easier on everyone all the way around.

I feel the need to respond to this, as someone in a similar position (my husband’s cancer has relapsed and we don’t have great options), who also isn’t one to speak freely about my feelings. I want to feel less alone in this journey, but am too overwhelmed sometimes to want to talk about it. Thankfully, I have some great friends who “get me” and know what to do…

Dropping dinner is wonderful, texts that don’t require a response are great, too. Both of these things send the message that you care without asking anything of her (like opening up about things she’s not ready to talk about).

Things I don’t want- phone calls, to be asked “how are YOU?”, to be told “things are going to work out.”

Basically, feed my kids and tell me that you’re thinking about me.?

@deb922, you are a good friend. You mentioned that your friend was appreciative of the meal you dropped off and that they hadn’t received much food. Why don’t you offer to create a meal train for them? They can decide how often and if they have any preferences or dislikes, times that are good or bad for drop off, etc.

A friend (who actually passed just a couple weeks ago) had brain cancer and another one of their friend’s created a google doc and they had dinners dropped off every other day for about 3 months. People noted what they were bringing to avoid duplication.

There were notes at the top of the google doc such as no red meat, they’d enjoy dessert, etc. People were to text when they dropped off dinner and the family had a table set up near the front door where food was left. We always left things in disposable containers for ease but some families may have preferences about that. (I’m including these details as examples of things to think through when inviting people to help by providing a meal.)

@DeeCee36 I’m really sorry for your husband’s reoccurrence. Cancer really stinks. I really appreciated your response.

I’m playing golf with my friend on Thursday and I’ll bring up regular meals. I hope she will be receptive. I think that they kept thinking that treatment was going to be short and then over. Unfortunately, they might be in this for awhile.

Sometimes people want to help but are unsure of what is needed. A meal train is a great idea. In addition is there a way to find out any other sort of help that is needed? I’m thinking things like grass cut/yard work, dog walking, picking up groceries or other supplies? Or maybe drop off some pretty cut flowers to brighten their day,

Also, as someone who only recently started an interest in cooking, I have found that meal help can take many forms. The restaurant cards mentioned upthread are a great idea and there is nothing wrong with picking up prepared food. A rotisserie chicken is a great thing to have in the house as 2 people can eat several meals out of it.

Hugs to all.

If she has nursing coverage, why not suggest getting a tee time to play 9 holes? The distraction and change of scenery could be a welcome break and it won’t take forever.

If she wants to unload, she can, but if she just wants a break (and no ear), that’s not a bad thing either.

Caregivers need some time off for a little self-care…

The meals are a great idea because they lessen her obligations.

Lots of great ideas. @DeeCee36 ,if I knew you in real life I would send you those texts that don’t require responses and happily feed your kids. :slight_smile:

I ran a “meal train” for a friend who had MS for gosh, must have been 2 years. It was before there were online sites to schedule and remind. She was (“is” - she has the best attitude and continues to fight the disease) someone at our church/school so there were lots of families to help. BUT, even if you involved just a few golf friends - a smaller circle it could be helpful.

One thing we learned was that a couple meals a week provided was eventually the “sweet spot” - they often had leftovers or wanted take out pizza or just didn’t want a big dinner - I think they realized they had TOO much food at one point so we cut down on the meals per week.

It may be that this couple may need more help down the road than now. But by you reaching out now you have let her know you are one who will “be there”.