Families fighting retinoblastoma can be overwhelmed by caring for their child and keeping the home running.
“Let me know if I can do anything to help” often causes unintended stress. Be proactive and make it easy for the family. Ask what needs doing or offer to do something specific, then do it.
Don’t be offended if your offer is declined, and remember to ask again at another time, because needs can change frequently.
Groceries and Meals
Take the family’s list when you go shopping. This is particularly welcome on return from a stay in hospital, or if the family lacks transport.
If you are looking after the house while the family are away, note the things they need and the brands they use to ensure you replenish essential items.
Families often lack energy or time to cook. Providing meals is especially helpful on clinic days, or when the child is hospitalized. Prepare fresh nutritious dishes, or meals that can be frozen. If the child is in hospital, consider taking them meals as hospitals often do not provide food for parents.
Help Keep the House Running
Hygiene is vital during chemotherapy. Cleaning, washing dishes, laundry, making up fresh beds etc. helps after even a short hospital stay. This also lets parents spend time with their children, do essential jobs or rest.
Caring for pets and the garden is very helpful, especially if the hospital is far away. An inviting garden detoxes the mind and lifts the spirit. Sometimes, pets need a temporary home during chemotherapy, when the child is vulnerable to infection.
Staying near the hospital can be expensive, and hotels can be very isolating at this difficult time. If you live close by and are able to, offer a place to stay. Invite them to stay overnight if they travel far for clinic appointments.
Holidays are stressful when the family lacks energy and time to cook, buy gifts or prepare decorations. Think about inviting them to join your own celebrations.
Financial burdens of cancer, lack of energy and the child’s needs often prevent families from taking a vacation. If you have a holiday home, consider inviting the family to use it to rejuvenate. Let them know the offer stands if now is a bad time.
Public transport is inappropriate for children receiving chemotherapy. This treatment suppresses their ability to fight infections and viruses, so even a common cold could be a life threatening risk for your friends’ child.
For this reason, children receiving chemotherapy must avoid crowded places like buses and trains as they present an increased risk of picking up germs.
Even if the family has a car, it may not be available if one parent needs it for work. Yet there will be frequent trips to the hospital for tests and treatment.
When time and energy are limited, essentials like school runs, shopping trips become another trauma. Many parents just appreciate being able to rest while someone else focuses on the road.
Look After the Children
When parents are at the hospital, they are comforted to know their other children are well looked after. Siblings are also calmer when cared for by familiar people.
Offer to take siblings for a treat or sleepover. This gives parents time with the child who has cancer, and blesses the siblings with something special just for them.
Look after the child in hospital or at home to give the parents a welcome break. They will be able to talk with doctors, run errands, spend quality time with one another and their other children, wash their hair or just sleep. The time out can also refresh and revitalize the child.