20 answers

Helping a Family with a Sick Child

Some friends of ours just learned that their almost three year old has cancer. He just went through one major surgery, will soon have another, and then will undergo chemo. We have socialized with this family a handful of times, but they live a good drive away from us, so we haven't seen each other very often. I have two children of my own (2.5 and 4 months) and cannot imagine what they must be going through. I want to do something for them to help and show support for them, but I don't know what is most useful. I know that many people from our religious community are lending a hand. I've signed up to bring them a couple of meals. I want to do something more, but they aren't interested in having visitors and I'm limited in what I can do because of the long drive to their place and juggling my two kids. Does anyone have suggestions for what I might do to lend a hand? Can you think of useful items to put in a care package? Any other ideas?

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My BIL has a friend who's son also suffered from cancer. When they were spending a lot of time in the hospital, someone put together a back pack for her. Things to keep her busy...snacks, refillable water bottle, word searches, a small notebook, to record info from the doctors. There were some other puzzle books, magazines, change for the vending machine. A small overnight kit with toothbrush, razor etc. There were some small gift cards for subway, since there was a store right around the corner from the hospital. She told my BIL that is was really nice to have those small distractions when she needed it. He worked with her at the time, and the place of business did a collection for yard service for a few months to help out.

2 moms found this helpful

Hey,
My dad suffered with cancer for a few years before he past.
An one thing that helped us out the most was those pre paid Visa cards that friends gave us. We used them to help get back and forth from hospital visits. and we used them for food. sence we was always on the go, and some got used to help pay the medical bills.

1 mom found this helpful

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My BIL has a friend who's son also suffered from cancer. When they were spending a lot of time in the hospital, someone put together a back pack for her. Things to keep her busy...snacks, refillable water bottle, word searches, a small notebook, to record info from the doctors. There were some other puzzle books, magazines, change for the vending machine. A small overnight kit with toothbrush, razor etc. There were some small gift cards for subway, since there was a store right around the corner from the hospital. She told my BIL that is was really nice to have those small distractions when she needed it. He worked with her at the time, and the place of business did a collection for yard service for a few months to help out.

2 moms found this helpful

You might once a month send a "thinking of you" card with a gift card enclosed. Gift cards can very from restaurants to bookstores, whatever you send I'm sure they will use it. They will look forward to their mail at least once a month if it becomes routine.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm sure they will be super busy and spending most of their time and attention on their little boy.
I'm thinking about the mundane, day-to-day things that will need to be done when they really want to focus on their child. Grocery shopping and meal prep are big ones (you could include grocery store gift cards and gift cards for places to pick up takeout), laundry (you could offer to come and pick up, do, fold and return it) in a timely manner, yard care (do it yourselves of get a service to do a fall yard clean up for them) Is the 3 yo an only child? If not, maybe you can pick up the sibling(s) one day and keep them til evening to give them a little relief. And money for parking for tolls, parking garages at the hospitals, etc is always welcomed.
Drop them a card every week or so, so they know you are praying for them and keeping them close at heart. Hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

Between my daughter's heart surgeries & my son's 4 hip surgeries....been there, done that. It's not fun. You're torn between wanting company & support.....& wanting everybody to leave you alone. You want solitude & yet that silence is deafening. It is such a time of torn & spent emotions.

With my son's last surgery (just 3 weeks ago), what we found helpful was a prepaid hospital parking card & lots of ready cash for the cafeteria/snacks. It is amazing how draining this is on the financial front....& when combined with the emotions involved......whew!

The backpack idea is excellent....BUT, I have always packed my own bag. This last time around, we hauled two bags. One with food snacks, both junk & healthy. The other bag contained reading materials, cards, notebook & pens, address book, medical files & info from the dr, hankies (because I knew I was going to cry), puzzle books, etc. **In reality, though, you are so distracted.....that concentrating is beyond your abilities when waiting for your child's update. ** Oh, & one other thing in my bag: a neck support pillow for napping & a small blanket.

A "Thinking of You" card is always welcome. One of the hardest things for me to deal with....is avoidance, discomfort, & .....in the case of my in-laws: a complete non-involvement. Seriously, in the 3 weeks since my son's surgery, we have had zero contact from my husband's family.......they're "all busy" with their lives! !! I'm just glad that I have my family & our friends!

Ooooops, one more important thing: I post updates on CaringBridge.org for our family & friends. It's free, it's easy to use....& I've had excellent responses to using this format! & most importantly for me....I can make journal entries for all to read....without having to repeat the same story again & again (with phone calls). Maybe this would be something to pass on to your friends!

1 mom found this helpful

You've got a lot of great suggestions. When my son was diagnosed with leukemia - he was 2 1/2 - some things I found helpful were:

- my SIL and mother offered to do my laundry. I wasn't home much when he had hospital stays so it piled up and I had a hard time getting it done

- help with shopping. Again, I didn't have much time to do this if he was not doing well. My parents would do my shopping for me

- a phone call to talk about everything else. Sometimes I needed a break from talking about cancer. I was happy to hear about my SIL's prgnancy or about how my niece did at her dance recital, etc.

- the backpack is a great idea. We received little packs of snacks from friends. They also bought my son toys to keep him busy in the hospital. It really lifted his spirts and kept him entertained which in turn lifted my spirits.

- offers to cut grass, rake leaves, etc. These are things we didn't have much time or energy for. They were put on the back burner, yet always on our minds. It was nice to have them done.

- meals were very much appreciated. We didn't get gift cards for take out places but that is a great idea.

- offers to take care of my daughter. Sometimes I had to be home with my son when his immunity was low. If friends or family members were healthy, my duaghter enjoyed playdates and outtings with them. It was a good release for her and allowed me to concentrate on my son without feeling like I was leaving her out.

- offers to watch my kids for an hour or two so I could get our of the house. I usually spent the time shopping or running errands, but made sure to grab a treat for myself. DQ was very good for me. ;)

I'll keep your friends and their son in my prayers.

1 mom found this helpful

Hey,
My dad suffered with cancer for a few years before he past.
An one thing that helped us out the most was those pre paid Visa cards that friends gave us. We used them to help get back and forth from hospital visits. and we used them for food. sence we was always on the go, and some got used to help pay the medical bills.

1 mom found this helpful

You might want to check which hospital he is being treated at. If you contact the hospital directly they may have suggestions. I know at Children's Hospital in Oakland they have a playroom for sick children. They are always in need of supplies, toys ect... It might be nice to give a new toy or two that you know he might be playing with in the next few weeks.

It is wonderful that you are reaching out to help another family they will appreciate it more than you will ever know.

N.

Hi - I am proud that you are thinking of ways to take care of this family that is going through so much. How about researching house cleaners in the familiy's area and paying for their house to be cleaned? Or, how about calling on an afternoon you know they are home and letting them know that you are having dinner delivered (pizza or chinese are the norm but a lot of restaurants will deliver these days). I have a girlfriend whose child was very ill when she was born and she recvd the gift of housecleaning and absolutely loved it - it took the worries of how were those chores going to get done away and that really did comfort her.
Hope this helps.
Sincerely,
N.

A gift card to a grocery store, so they can shop online.

Helping with meals is a great thing to do. For a little something more, send them a note everyweek letting them know you care, are praying, and offering to be of service if needed. Sometimes people just want to know you care and that they and their struggle haven't been forgotten.
Stac

Do they have any other children?, if so maybe you could offer to take care of them for a day/overnite. I can understand them not wanting visitors, as my son was born with many congenital heart defects. There really is only so much that you can do, without being over bearing. Maybe you can offer to some cleaning at their house, know that could be hard with 2 kids of your own, but, maybe your husband can watch them while you do it. My prayers are with this family, J.

Do you know their financial situation? I am sure that it's very expensive for all the treatments. My sister's son has Williams Syndrome and I know they are in need. I wish I could send her some grocery gift cards! If they are struggling to get by, this would come before anything else. Just a thought!
If they are fine on that front, then I'd do something more sentimental but I'm not sure what. I like the house cleaning idea and the care package one you mentioned. When my little sister was in the hospital when she was 4 she got a book made by my older sister's class. She also got balloons, stuffed animals, and sweets (some she couldn't have though.)

I am sorry for your friend and I hope their son recovers quickly.

One idea I haven't seen mentioned yet is cleaning their house, or hiring a maid service. I know it's not cheap, but if you can afford it, you can usually get someone to clean once or twice a month for around $75 each time. That might help them out, especially if they are spending a lot of time at the hospital and aren't home to keep the house clean.

Ask the family about special cleaning products they might need. If their son's immune system is compromised, certain cleaners might be dangerous.

I haven't read the other comments so I apologize if I repeat. It can become very expensive if the family has to travel back and forth or great distances for treatment/visiting so gas cards can be a big help.

what a caring person you are!
have you considered buying or lending them some comedy videos? laughter is great.

tickets to a movie or puppet show etc.

HTH. Jilly

I am currently fostering two turtles for a family in a similar situation. Do they have pets you can offer to take care of while they deal with the cancer? Other than that I'm sure they need help with meals, laundry, all the day to day things that you don't have time to care about when you are battling cancer. Maybe a few of you could chip in for a cleaning person to come a couple times a month? Even once a month would help. Take care, and thank you for wanting to help this family.

T., I am so grateful for your kind heart and believe me it helps the family knowing about that. Since I have had the experiance of a loved one with cancer, and friends that have a grandchild going thru it, I want to share the things we have learned.
1. meals are important 2. if they have other children paying for someone to watch them so that expense isn't a burden 3. send cards 2xs a month that will uplift their spirits and take thier minds off the fear and pain. 4. have your children color a picture for them to show tier child 5. send a gift card to eat out while they are @ the hospital, even a gas card helped us a lot becasue I'd forget to get cash I was so stressed out. Sometimes when you have to travel like you say there are still plenty of helpful things you can do. All of it will be appreciated-- in fact you can offer to write a blog, or email thank yous to people that have helped. Just being a listening ear and kind heart helps. My prayers are all with you.

A thoughtful note now and then, a book to read during long waits in the hospital, amusing toys and books for their little one, your moral support and prayers all are non-intrusive and helpful, I think.

meals are the best at this time.. also maybe a prayer card you can pick up at your church.. with a simple prayer on the back.. like a prayer card to St. Jude... also helpful is a gift card for pizza or some type of take out.. chinese... whatever.. something they can call up to get.. we had people in our comminuty the same thing.. and so many people were making meals.. i decided to do a lunch.-- i bought some rolls, a 1/2 lb. of ham, turkey, cheese, a jar of pickles, a bag of chips, and some juice.. and had it delivered to them.. it was nice since they had so many dinners.. and now they had lunch too... you can start a prayer chain ask others to prayer for them.. just send them a card to let them know you are thinking about them.. also ask others about doing a bone marrow drive... maybe the church will do this... good luck.. god bless.

Updated

meals are the best at this time.. also maybe a prayer card you can pick up at your church.. with a simple prayer on the back.. like a prayer card to St. Jude... also helpful is a gift card for pizza or some type of take out.. chinese... whatever.. something they can call up to get.. we had people in our comminuty the same thing.. and so many people were making meals.. i decided to do a lunch.-- i bought some rolls, a 1/2 lb. of ham, turkey, cheese, a jar of pickles, a bag of chips, and some juice.. and had it delivered to them.. it was nice since they had so many dinners.. and now they had lunch too... you can start a prayer chain ask others to prayer for them.. just send them a card to let them know you are thinking about them.. also ask others about doing a bone marrow drive... maybe the church will do this... good luck.. god bless.

Great Suggestions! I like the backpack idea and maybe even collect magazines or books for the parents. An illness like this means a lot of waiting around for everyone. If you know of hobbies that could be portable you might be able to help out, A bag for knitting/crocheting, Soduko puzzles,etc. Or if you are available, your phone number so they can call to vent, it's a stressful time and wacky things can happen at the hospital that wear on nerves. Also, I think a card once a month would be wonderful. My cousing was much older but when he was sick I wrote to him. My Aunt said it helped him so much! I think it would help the parents a lot to know people are there for support.

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