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Sherry Mistro-Henn for TENNESSEE ONCOLOGY

Hearing that someone you know and love has cancer is a real punch in the gut. You are scared for them, sad for their family, and desperate to do something to provide support. Helping out will help you deal with it. Not doing something…anything – is not an option.

If surgery is a necessary part of the treatment plan, certain items are LIFE SAVERS. These things are easy to find and fit perfectly in a small basket at the side of the bed/recliner during recuperation. Throat drops ease the irritation that the breathing tube caused. A soothing lip balm, not strongly flavored, helps with constantly dry lips.   Mints or gum help dry mouth caused by pain medication. These things will be treasured all the way through recuperation and all the cycles of therapy to come.

Bandages, dressings and drainage tubes restrict one’s ability to bathe or take a shower- which is miserable. Dry shampoo and adult-sized disposable washcloths (inexpensive and easy to find at your local pharmacy) help keep that yucky feeling away until the bandages come off and the tubes come out. If you can treat the patient to a trip to a salon for a shampoo and blow dry, they will feel like a million bucks!

Soft robes, fuzzy socks or house flip-flops add comfort in all seasons to someone bound to their house. Ball caps, stocking caps or scarves are great items to give when hair loss is expected. YouTube is full of instructional videos that you can watch together, sharing tips on headscarves and turban making.

Preparing a meal for your friend is always helpful and appreciated, but if that area is covered by other friends, church members or family, there are many things that you can jump right into that really make a difference. If you know that they have doctor’s appointments or their children need rides to school or ball practice, tell them when you will be there to pick them up, easing logistic challenges. Look for furniture that needs dusting, a load of towels that could be folded or a floor that needs sweeping – do it without even asking. Your friend would likely not ask for these favors but they are so appreciated.

When you cannot be close to your friend due to distance or their susceptibility to infection, checking in with kind words and cheerful encouragement works wonders.

The simplest gestures of kindness can be the most memorable expressions of love.