People have asked me: what should I do when I get this news? I thought I would share a bit about what might be helpful to do, early on.
1. Take stock of the situation. Is there going to be surgery involved? Chemotherapy? Radiation? Should you be making adjustments right away to prepare the house if en elderly parent is getting surgery? You may need to get a lower bed. Perhaps you can make her bedroom more temporarily "livable," by putting a comfy chair in the bedroom, adding an instant teapot and making a little tea station, or keeping a pitcher of water and a glass on the bedside table. You may need to move a bed downstairs. If she is going to have to get chemo, can you work out a schedule to have someone drive her? There are going to be a series of doctor's appointments. Can you get a number of them on the calendar early, so that you can get a picture of what the next few months will hold?
2. Make some small nutritional changes right away. I have written a lot about how making dramatic changes is not effective for most people, because most people have their likes and dislikes and can be set in their ways a bit. Start off by simply adding more greens. Think about ways to add greens into every meal. Add spinach into their rice & beans, introduce green smoothies, think of having 2-3 vegetable & fruit sides with dinner instead of 1.
3. Buy a copy of "One Bite at a Time" by Rebecca Katz. She has a number of cookbooks directed towards cancer survivors, and they are all great. They are delicious, accessible, and healthy recipes. They give you an idea of what foods are cancer fighters, and give you a good place to start nutritionally.
4. Keep a log book. Have a book handy where you can write EVERYTHING down. Who came by to check in. Who offered to help. What friends delivered food. What your loved-ones reaction was to a new medication. What the doctors reported at the hospital. This log will be invaluable to you. A lot of things can be a blur when you are helping someone through a crisis. Your sibling may arrive at the hospital later in the day than you, and can refer to the log book to get the latest info.
5. Make a list of things friends can do to help. You can keep the list in the log book! Then when somebody calls and asks what they can do, you can refer to the list and say "His dry cleaning needs to be picked up!" or "We're out of eggs if you can grab some next time you're at the grocery."
6. Ask somebody to coordinate meals. A prepared meal arriving at the door is one of the most wonderful things that can happen to someone in a cancer crisis. The last thing they can think about is food, but it is often the most important thing! In most cases you do not want meals delivered every day, because that can be too much. Having someone coordinate food delivery is really helpful. They can give people the patients food preferences and allergies, tell them what time/place to deliver the food, let them know how to pick up their dish afterwards. This takes a huge burden off the patient and his/her caregiver. There are some great services out there that can help with this. Meal Train is one. Sign up Genius is another. If people are really thoughtful, they will occasionally include the primary caregiver in the food delivery, too. The caregiver is not thinking about feeding her immediate family, and arriving home to an empty refrigerator can be the cause of lots of tears and frustration. Making a meal for someone who is helping somebody through cancer is a deeply wonderful thing!
7. Look into alternatives & holistic treatments. See what is available in your area. Be open to them. If you are interested/willing in trying alternative treatments, it doesn't mean you have to abandon the traditional methods (in #1) right away. Some can be done in conjunction with one another. Many are nutritional and can make a tremendous difference whether or not you choose to do chemotherapy.
8. Have hope. Countless studies have shown that having hope is an incredibly powerful thing. A positive attitude will make you heal faster. Your mind asks your body to stand up and start walking, why can't it ask your cancer to start disappearing? Try to create a positive environment that is happy, low stress, and hopeful. It will make a difference.
Mushroom White Bean Sauté
Ample amount of olive oil
1 package sliced mushrooms
½ a red onion
1 can white beans (or 1 cup of soaked and cooked white beans)
1 clove garlic, minced
Serve over cooked quinoa, or salad greens.
1 cup cooked quinoa (optional) or salad greens (optional)
Dressing for the salad or quinoa
1. Liberally pour olive oil in a frying pan and sauté one package of sliced mushrooms, along with half a diced red onion. Salt well. Once they are soft and browned (after maybe 10 min.) add your beans, followed by the minced clove of garlic. Stir until fragrant and flavors have melded (about 2 min.) Add more olive oil and salt, until seasoned to your liking.
2. Pour over salad greens with dressing (or quinoa seasoned with a dressing) and enjoy!