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Friend's child is very sick

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whatjusthappened posted 8/14/2013 12:06 PM

Ideally (if that's the right word in this case) I'd like the perspective of a parent or other caregiver who's been in this situation before, but I'd really rather believe there aren't any of those out there.

First - please say a prayer for our very dear friends' 11-year old daughter who was diagnosed with cancer a few days ago. So far, her oncologist is extremely optimistic, but it's going to be a very, very long road of chemo, operations, and hospital stays.

Second, and this may sound so incredibly silly - does anyone have any advice on how to be a supportive, helpful friend to the parents of a sick child without overstepping bounds? Our friends have a great network of friends and family, so this network (and we) have already offered meals, yardwork, picking up their other daughter when needed, dogsitting, etc. I think at this point our friends are overwhelmed, and they have said they will get back to us once they have any idea of the kind of help they'll even need. All of their friends are trying to stay proactive in asking what we can do, but none of us want to seem pushy.

I am planning on heading to the hospital today to visit with my girlfriend and possibly to see their daughter (assuming she's out of surgery when I'm there) and bring her lunch. I've planned this visit with my girlfriend, so I'm not popping by unannounced at all. Are there ideas of things I can bring with me to make their stay at least a little more pleasant? Magazines, puzzles, books, etc.? They'll be in the hospital through the end of the week (they're 2 days into their stay now) and will be visiting many times over the next 6 months, at least. Would Starbucks or nearby restaurant gift cards be welcome, or do you typically not leave the hospital for even brief periods?

Really, I think my panic over this is because I hate feeling helpless, and I'm sure the parents are feeling that times a million. I just want so badly to take away at least a little of their anxiety, however possible. TIA for your input and advice.

EvenKeel posted 8/14/2013 12:41 PM

IDK how far they have to travel for treatments/care/follow-ups, etc but ppl I know in this situation loved the gas cards to help with the never-ending trips.

A lady in my community went through this with her DD - she was very open on FB telling her story (has since wrote a book). It is heart-wrenching to watch any family go through this. Hugs!

nowiknow23 posted 8/14/2013 13:08 PM

Not much to offer in the way of advice, but I will keep your friend's family in my thoughts.

tushnurse posted 8/14/2013 13:09 PM

I would definitely think that they will benefit with some gift cards for food nearby, or even in the Cafe's on campus of the hospital. Hospital food can be really really expensive.

If the kiddo is in the hospital for any length of time it would be awesome to bring them some real home cooked food.

It is hard to watch a little one be sick, and be out of control on helping. I would say be sure to mark your calendar to check in every couple of weeks, as the longer this goes on the less support and response they will get from friends/family. It's just what happens.

((((to you and your friend's family especially the little one))))

Lucky2HaveMe posted 8/14/2013 17:15 PM

Don't wait for them to ask. Just do it. It is very difficult for people to ask for help.

Make a schedule for friends & family to take a meal over, now the lawn, shovel the walk, transport siblings to activities...

When her dd has a good week, take her out for a coffee or a pedicure. Pamper her a little.

Do they have a Netflix subscription? They might appreciate something like that as well.

Hugs & prayers to your friend and her dad.

[This message edited by Lucky2HaveMe at 5:16 PM, August 14th (Wednesday)]

whatjusthappened posted 8/14/2013 17:29 PM

Thank you all for your your input and for some great suggestions! Please keep them - and the prayers - coming!

I went to the hospital today and sat with my girlfriend for a while as her DD was in recovery. We had lunch and chatted about the treatment, and about non-cancer stuff too. Towards the end of the visit, her DD woke up and her H got there, so all 3 of us got to visit with their little girl, although she was still groggy.

It kills me to watch them go through this. I've known the H in this couple for almost 20 years, and he was always the good-time friend. I've never seen him intimidated or scared in the 20 years prior, but I saw him cry twice today.

jrc1963 posted 8/15/2013 17:12 PM

(((Hugs))) to your friends DD and Hugs to you as well.

StrongerOne posted 8/16/2013 11:07 AM

Gone through this very sitch.

It's very hard for the parent to know what they need, or to ask for it, especially when it is all new. I had no idea what I needed, what I could and couldn't handle, no idea...

What you're doing so far is great. Most anything that you do will be appreciated -- because the parents will see that you care about them. That in itself means so much.

Here's what people did for us that I found especially helpful. My bestie arranged all of the dinners for treatment days -- she did a sign up, kept a calendar, followed up with folks who'd signed up to make sure they were able to follow through (if they couldn't, she made dinner or found someone else), stopped by the house to pick up serving bowls and take them back to the folks who'd brought them.

Treatment day was also trash day , so our neighbors took our trash to the curb and put the cans back at the end of the day.

One friend checked with me before her weekly shopping trip every week to see if I needed anything, and got it for me.

When my folks came out, one friend picked them up at the airport, and another drove them back.

My husband's friends took him out for guys' nite to watch sports or grab a beer.

One friend sent me a card at the start of every month just to say she was thinking of us.

Lots of people asked after our boy, which I appreciated, but what I really appreciated even more, in a way, were the people who asked how I was doing.

It goes without saying (but so many people don't have enough sense to know it) that offering medical "advice" without being asked for it, or sharing your own personal story about cancer (I did not want to hear anyone else's sad story) is not helpful. If you have been in the same situation, then it's good to offer support and then back off -- "hey, this is a really hard thing to go through, let me know if you want to talk".

We have only one child, but my observation of families at the hospital (and having been one of the well siblings of a chronically ill sister)
leads me to suggest that if there are siblings, that you could offer an outing for the kid(s) who aren't sick, a play date for those kids, offer to pick them up at school, take them to piano lessons, etc. That helps the parents and also can make the well kids feel wanted.

You are so kind to help and support your friend, and to ask what more you can do. You're a good friend, and a good soul!

Skye posted 8/16/2013 19:15 PM

Not sure this is for everyone, but there are websites that you can sign up on and give "news" of these types of situations. A friend of mine was in an accident recently and another friend started a "blog" regarding his progress. It is so wonderful to be able to go there daily to get updates and not bother family members with phone calls. You might offe to do something like this to take one load off their minds--tons of phone calls and emails from caring relatives.

There are also websites where friends can sign up for various tasks. It's a great tool to coordinate meals, carpools, etc.

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