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How do you help a family...

vc10um

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Aug 22, 2009
Messages
6,006
...when you are hundreds of miles away and you've just found out the mother (of 5) is going to lose her battle with breast cancer?

I am at a complete and total loss. DH's eldest cousin has been battling breast cancer for as long as I've known DH. Her latest round of chemo was just after Thanksgiving, and at our wedding two months ago she seemed to be doing quite well, at least on the surface.

We just found out today that she will not, in fact, be one of the survivors. DH and I live half way across the country from the family and are at a complete loss for what to do to support and help them through this time. There are many family members in the area (including her parents and grandmother, as well as her four siblings and their families) that will be able to assist them, so at least they are not alone. But we would like to help in some way so that whatever time she has left can be spent focusing on her husband and children.

We've thought of sending grocery gift cards so that at least some of the financial burden is lifted, and we are also planning on sending Christmas presents in December. I have asked a few of DH's cousins to let me know if they think of anything, but any other suggestions would be welcome.

Oh, and if I could request some dust to be sent their way...for...peace, I guess? And for healing of spirits? I would really appreciate it.
 

kenny

Super_Ideal_Rock
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Apr 30, 2005
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28,975
vc10um|1314896157|3007494 said:
But we would like to help in some way so that whatever time she has left can be spent focusing on her husband and children.
How do you know this is what she wants?
Perhaps she would like to continue to function as normally as possible (as in going to work) for as long as possible.
Perhaps she does not want extra attention or to be fussed over.
Perhaps she's proud and would resent money.

I got a cancer diagnosis (not terminal) and frankly I'm annoyed by people trying to "help" or give advice.

People vary.
Perhaps she does want what you want to give her.
I would not assume; rather, I'd be asking those closest to her what she wants.
It is entirely possible doing nothing is what she wants.
If so, respect that.
 

lyra

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Jul 13, 2007
Messages
5,220
I'm so sorry to hear of this. Sending dust and healing thoughts of course. I don't know what more you can do from where you are, but I think the grocery cards would be helpful. Maybe there are things you can think of for the kids, don't know what ages they are. Take care.
 

vc10um

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Aug 22, 2009
Messages
6,006
kenny|1314896872|3007502 said:
vc10um|1314896157|3007494 said:
But we would like to help in some way so that whatever time she has left can be spent focusing on her husband and children.
How do you know this is what she wants?
Perhaps she would like to continue to function as normally as possible (as in going to work) for as long as possible.
Perhaps she does not want extra attention or to be fussed over.
Perhaps she's proud and would resent money.

I got a cancer diagnosis (not terminal) and frankly I'm annoyed by people trying to "help" or give advice.

People vary.
Perhaps she does want what you want to give her.
I would not assume; rather, I'd be asking those closest to her what she wants.
It is entirely possible doing nothing is what she wants.
If so, respect that.
All valid points, kenny. I have put out the call to her SIL for suggestions and DH and I will wait to act until we hear anything, but we would obviously respect any wishes she had.

ETA: Thanks, lyra. The children range in age from very young to just starting high school.
 

Haven

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
Feb 15, 2007
Messages
13,166
I'm sorry to hear about what your family is going through, VC.

Can DH call his cousin or her husband and ask if they would appreciate it if you arrange for meal deliveries? Or, just ask what you can do in general? Whenever someone from my synagogue is facing a terminal illness a member of our caring community calls the individual and asks what they can do. Meal delivery and grocery shopping and delivery seem to be the most commonly done things. Even from far away I bet you could arrange something like that if they'd appreciate it.

I also know people often need volunteers to care for their pets, such as take them on walks, feed them, clean the litter boxes, etc. If they have pets, you could encourage the family that is nearby to offer to help.

You'll be in my thoughts.
 

sillyberry

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Jul 28, 2009
Messages
1,792
Oh, I'm so very sorry. :(

Perhaps a restaurant you know they like delivers? That feeds the kiddos without requiring extra work on the part of Mom or Dad. This might be particularly helpful if the overall family organizes any kind of food delivery (there are websites that let you maintain a calendar). Also doing something for the kids who are probably devastated, but can get lost in the shuffle. Movie passes or something similar to let them have a bit of a diversion.
 

TooPatient

Ideal_Rock
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Sep 1, 2009
Messages
9,296
VC, I'm so sorry. I'll be thinking of her and her family. I hope she is comfortable and able to find peace.


Are there any dinner services in their area?
Instead of gift cards to the grocery stores, you might look for something like a personal chef service that delivers a fully prepared meal each day. We have one around here that I see driving around sometimes and (at least from the advertising on the radio) it isn't terribly expensive.

If she's able to make it around okay, you might also do something like passes to the zoo or aquarium for the family so they can get out and make some more happy memories.

A night at a nice hotel for her and her husband with full room service and pampering as a couple.

House cleaning service might be nice too so they have more time together without having to worry as much about the cleaning.
 

soocool

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Jan 10, 2009
Messages
2,827
Why don't you set up a scholarship fund for the 5 kids. I am sure that will give her peace of mind and great joy to know that her kids will be taken care of.
 

tyty333

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Dec 17, 2008
Messages
22,517
I think since you are not there to help out by dropping off some food that a gift card to somewhere that
delivers would be nice.
 

JewelFreak

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
7,768
Soocool's idea is wonderful.

Ask about housecleaning. My neighbor also has terminal breast cancer & we chipped in to pay for a cleaning service for her -- she wasn't strong enough to do it herself & that gave her more time to spend with her kids, about the same ages as your DH's cousin's kids.

If she still can do it, maybe you could arrange (& pay) for her & the children to spend some time doing whatever they'd like somewhere outside the house -- or if she can't, maybe the kids would appreciate it themselves, a day away doing something fun.

If family is helping out a great deal -- or will be as time dwindles down -- you could offer to go out & spell them a bit, if possible.

Otherwise, from my own experience w/dying family, just BE there -- call her while she's able to talk & as Kenny says, NO pity; it's intolerable. Letting her know you love her is enough.

Afterwards is important too -- I hope you'll give whatever moral support & love you can for her children (& husband?). Not just the 1st couple weeks -- it's the time later, when the fuss stops & others go back to their normal lives, that they will really need you. The 1st holiday season & the 2nd one, birthdays, etc. Most people forget them by then -- it is a very very lonely time.

--- Laurie
 

vc10um

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Aug 22, 2009
Messages
6,006
Thank you, Haven, SB, TP, soocool, tyty, and JewelFreak, for your beautiful thoughts and your kind advice.

I believe her immediate family is having a big "family meeting" this weekend to discuss everything, and I'm sure I'll have more guidance when we hear what they've talked about. I don't know much at all about her husband's family and what they'll be doing to help out, but I know for sure that DH's family will be there every step of the way, helping out with everything they possibly can.

In the meantime, I'm going to start looking up meal delivery services and see if DH and I can take a spot in any rotation that may arise and fill it through that. Also, soocool, I love the idea of setting up a scholarship fund for the children.

Thank you again, everyone.
 

centralsquare

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
2,201
I'm so sorry about this! How sad! Perhaps make your desire to help known and see what they say. You want to be helpful but you don't want to make the situation more awkward or challenging for them. Ask and see!
 

kama_s

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
3,617
I have no suggestions, I have no idea what I would do if I were you. Such a difficult and heart-breaking situation all around. Just wanted to extend my sympathies :blackeye:
 

princesss

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Mar 18, 2007
Messages
8,035
Love them.

You know the situation I've been in for the past year - and when it came down to it, the best thing I could do (and often, the only thing I could do) was just love them. Pray for them, love them, make sure that whoever needs you knows that you're there however they need you to be. You're a wonderful person, and I know that you and A will do whatever the family needs, so just be in tune with that and send every ounce of love you can their way.

ETA: Also, for yourself - read this: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2005/10/williams200510#gotopage1 It's beautiful and heartbreaking in so many ways, but a really good read.
 

beesha77

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
249
When my husband was sick, having dinner taken care of was so helpful as the caregiver. To not have to worry about what to feed the kids was a huge burden off of me. Also maybe gift cards to walmart or local grocery store is always appreciated as well.
 

beesha77

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
249
JewelFreak|1314908370|3007670 said:
Afterwards is important too -- I hope you'll give whatever moral support & love you can for her children (& husband?). Not just the 1st couple weeks -- it's the time later, when the fuss stops & others go back to their normal lives, that they will really need you. The 1st holiday season & the 2nd one, birthdays, etc. Most people forget them by then -- it is a very very lonely time.

--- Laurie
This!

Yes...the hardest part is when everyone goes back to their normal lives and you're now stuck with your new "normal". It's lonely and it sucks. Just letting them know you haven't forgotten about them can be so huge. ***hugs***
 

vc10um

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Aug 22, 2009
Messages
6,006
centralsquare, kama, princesss, and beesha, thank you so much for all your kind words.

princesss, that article was beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

DH's family is still waiting to hear the results of a few tests, and then they're having a big family meeting to kind of divvy-up duties. At that point we'll have a better idea of what we can help with from far away. Right now, I just sent a ton of pictures from our wedding that are wonderful pictures of DH's cousin's children to Walgreen's for printing. I'll be picking those up later this weekend and mailing them in a card on Tuesday. I figure it's the least I can do right now.
 
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