While Valentine's Day is synonymous with heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, red roses and greeting cards, at its best, the holiday is an opportunity to express love for the people in your life who matter most.
There is perhaps no group more deserving of that love than cancer patients. Cancer can be isolating, so it's crucial for those battling the disease to surround themselves with as much love and emotional support as possible.
We asked the members of our Facebook community to share with us how their loved ones provided support, encouragement and assistance during their cancer journeys, and one thing was clear: Proving that you care doesn't require any grand gestures. Simply showing up is what counts.
Here are a few ways you can make the cancer fighters in your life feel loved:
1. Celebrate important milestones.
A cancer journey is a marathon, not a sprint, so make an effort to acknowlede and celebrate the patient's progress along the way.
One user says, "During my radiation treatments, on every Wednesday, after my oncologist visit, my daughter gave me a bouquet of pink roses with the number of roses matching the number of treatments. A very special way to celebrate."
2. Provide comic relief.
It is often said that laughter is the best medicine, and our Facebook followers echoed that sentiment. Use your sense of humor to provide a welcome distraction to the challenges of cancer treatment.
Several users found laughter to be helpful. One in particular fondly remembers that her husband "found ways to make me laugh, he held me while I cried, reminded me that I'm beautiful and kept his vow to love me in sickness and in health! He held me often, prayed for me daily, and did so many everyday chores without complaint! He was and is my rock!"
3. Help with errands and chores.
Even basic tasks can be daunting for cancer patients. To assist with everyday chores, volunteer to go grocery shopping, prepare a meal, pick them up from appointments or tidy up around the house.
One community member's husband learned a favorite recipe to prepare for her during treatment. She recalls, "The Chinese restaurants were not open yet after church and the broth from wonton soup helped calm my stomach from chemo so my husband went to the grocery store and bought all of the ingredients and taught himself how to make wonton soup so my stomach would settle."
4. Keep in touch.
No matter how busy you are or how far away you live, technology makes it easy to remain in consistent contact with loved ones battling cancer. Take the time to call, text, email or video message to show that you are thinking of them, even when you cannot be there in person.
A former patient appreciated that his family could see him even when they could not be together. "While at COH, we Skyped every evening, and I got to see the girls without any of us being masked and gloved," he explains.
5. Just be there.
Your presence alone can lift the spirits of a loved one who is suffering.
For another user, simply spending time with her family brought her joy. "My grandchildren are always there for me making my day light up so bright," she remarks.
City of Hope has a variety of resources available to help support cancer patients and caregivers. For more information about our services, contact the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, or visit Hopeful.org, an online community for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer.
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