Ultimate Guide: Helping a Loved one with Brain Cancer

As a brain cancer haver, sometimes I know I need help but I’m so exhausted I don’t know what to ask for. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, so I’ve created this Ultimate Guide to Helping a Loved One with Brain Cancer.

It’s sharable, so the next time someone asks how they can help, you can just pass ’em the link. Easy peasy. Or, if you are the one trying to help but are unsure what to offer, this list can give you ideas too.

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Helping a Loved One with Brain Cancer

1. Buy groceries.

With the wonders of modern technology gifted grocery orders are possible—even if you don’t live close by. So whether you make a personal delivery or gift an online order, fresh meals and snacks will be handy for the patient and caregivers.

Ideas for your shopping list include: fresh food, fresh produce, prepared meals from the deli, hydration powders, protein shakes, favorite treats, bottled water, and bedside snacks.

2. Mow the lawn.

This is a no-brainer. (Haha.) Even if technically someone in the household can mow, it doesn’t mean their energy isn’t consumed by more urgent matters. If you can’t mow either, you can talk to local mowing companies or neighbors.

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3. Bake something.

Store bought baked goods are fine sometimes. But homemade banana bread and cookies are seasoned with love. Don’t overthink it too much. If chemotherapy and radiation make things taste weird, goodies can be frozen or shared with caregivers, family members, and visitors.

4. Send gift cards.

This is particularly helpful if the brain cancer patient has to travel or commute to treatment. Gift cards for restaurants and gas are ideal in that situation. Grocery store, Amazon, and big box store gift cards that can be used to order necessities online are also helpful.

5. Support your loved ones hobbies.

You don’t have to spend money on craft supplies (though that is certainly an option). Watching a movie, reading a blog, or simply spending time watching birds at the feeder can remind someone they are loved.

6. Read their blog.

Reading and commenting on patient blogs can help brain cancer patients maintain connection when that’s not otherwise possible for them. And, if they post frequent updates, it’s a way for them to keep people in the loop without having a million different conversation.

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7. Send a package.

Not every gift has to be brand new. Some of the most helpful things you can gift a loved one with brain cancer are things you received during your own illness, second-hand treasures. Getting a surprise in the mail can always brighten someone’s day.

8. Help make their home more accessible.

Not everyone can install a walk-in tub, but little fixes can be super helpful. Install a grab bar or reorganize a bedroom. If you can turn a screwdriver or move furniture, your services are so valuable!

9. Share, start, or donate to a fundraiser.

People, even strangers, can help by donating to medical fundraisers. But sending thank yous and sharing links are helpful to the patient too. Cancer is expensive to treat, especially in the US. If you know, you know.

10. Share a wishlist.

Setting up a wishlist makes it easy for others to give and receive. They can be shared through social media, and patients can get what they need easily.

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11. File taxes.

If you’re not confident doing taxes or the patient’s taxes are too complicated, you can always shuffle those piles of documents to a tax preparer so your loved one gets a reprieve from the unpleasantness.

12. Fill out forms.

Being sick and filling out paperwork for, well, anything is not an enjoyable experience. Whether it’s new patient forms or disability claims, it’s helpful for someone else to wield the laptop or the pen.

13. Become a patron.

Assuming, someone has a Patreon account, this can be a wonderful way to show support.

14. Leave a supportive note or comment.

You know how parents leave encouraging notes on their kids lunch bags? That. But on chemo snacks and in tote bags being carried off to the infusion clinic.

15. Visit.

Exercise caution here. Contagious illnesses complicate this one, I know. But an occasional short visit or an overnight stay can remind a brain cancer patient she’s living, not dying. 

16. Share what you create.

Whether you paint, make TikToks, or build furniture, sharing in-person or online can be a pleasant distraction from a long day of thinking only about the cancer stuff.

17. Offer a warm blanket.

For MRIs or infusions at the hospital, the nurse or tech always offers a warm blanket. But that can totally be done at home. Throw a blanket in the dryer for a warm and gentle little snuggle.

18. Complete a chore.

Maybe you can patch and repair tiles or take the garbage cans to the curb. Stuff that desperately needs to be done but patients and caregivers don’t have time or energy for actually make great opportunities to help.

19. Support a caregiver.

Supporting a caregiver is supporting the patient. Whether you can give someone a few hours off or send a little treat, it’s a great two-for-one way to show you care.

20. Give them weed.

Yeah, I said it. Void where prohibited by law.

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21. Get angry or swear.

This won’t be for everyone, but bad news and rough days are abundant when you’re living with a brain tumor. You can validate that by skipping the platitudes and keeping things real. Dropping an appropriately placed F-bomb can be loads more helpful than saying “at least you don’t have…”

22. Make a sign.

A woman made a loved one a sign that just said “tumor” when she was diagnosed. The patient flashed it anytime a full explanation required too much energy. Any shorthand is helpful though, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a sign.

23. Be forgiving.

Some meds make patients irritable, and a lack of sleep or the inability to do things like “before” can make tears come at the slightest provocation. Grace is always helpful.

24. Wear a mask.

Covid made people more aware cancer patients endure treatments that weaken immune systems. They don’t want Covid-19, the flu or the common cold. Wearing a mask protects cancer patients from a plethora of medical complications.

25. Get vaccinated.

See 24.

26. Schedule a game night.

It’s good for the soul to have some stress-free fun on a regular basis. Schedule an in-person board game or a standing online video gaming session. It’s good to have things to look forward to. 

27. Pet sit.

Treatment might be 3 hours away from home in the middle of the day or a weeks-long overnight affair. If you can fill the cat’s food bowl and take the dog for walks, you can be a huge help.

28. Research a major purchase.

Sometimes buying new, big-ticket items takes research. Making or researching recommendations for a big purchase—from a robot vacuum to a refrigerator—is a huge load off.

29. Assume the thank you is implied.

Sometimes life’s proverbial fires get in the way. Don’t take offense if something gets missed or just plain forgotten (because, hello chemo fog).

30. Enable a hobby.

If the brain cancer patient doesn’t already have a hobby to distract them while they’re feeling low, suggest one. Help them discover something new that they enjoy and you’re helping a loved one with brain cancer.

31. Vote.

This is specifically meant for a U.S. audience, but I’m sure it applies elsewhere too. Whether your views are liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, it doesn’t matter so much. Nothing is more harmful to a patient than apathy.

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32. Drop them off at the door.

“Take the stairs” and “park farther away from the door” don’t apply. Some days and weather conditions require that a cancer patient get dropped off.

33. Shop for them.

Some people think shopping is enjoyable and returning items is no big deal. Those people are the best people when cancer has patients stuck at home.

34. Send cat photos and funny memes.

Does this need explanation? When you don’t know what to say to cheer up someone with cancer, try this.

35. Advocate.

You could go to an appointment with a patient or run a 5k with the patient’s name on your shirt. It all matters. Whether you know someone who lacks the resources to deal with the healthcare system or not, you help today’s patients and everyone who follows. And that’s really helping a loved one with brain cancer.

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