Mandi Makes a Podcast Playlist

I’ve been a podcast listener since the first time I owned an mp3 player. Stories that draw me in make it easy to forget how many miles I’ve walked (Oh look, the kids are asleep in the stroller!) or how many miles of trim I’ve painted in our new house (Wait, it’s 1AM already?!). So many people have asked me about my renovation playlist, and while I am the avid listener to very specific genres of music, it’s really my favorite podcasts that have gotten me this far in my quest to transform our 1980s house into my dream home.

I wanted to share some of my favorite podcasts with you, as well as specific favorite episodes from each one. Some of these may be a bit cliché (This America Life, what can I say— I love it!), and admittedly I don’t often try new tv shows and radio shows, because I really know what I like and don’t like wasting my time. So if you have any new suggestions, I promise I’ll give them a look!

RadioLab is the perfect podcast for those who enjoy exploring their curiosities, from the human mind to the human immune system, from social constructs to social injustice, from Cuban punk music to the American judiciary system— the way the RadioLab team researches and compiles each episode is thorough and engaging. This podcast perfectly combines entertainment with learning opportunities, and just might be my absolute favorite! It was impossible to narrow down my favorites! So I’ll share my top six. (And I would share more if I wasn’t afraid of overwhelming you.)

Worth / “This episode, we make three earnest, possibly foolhardy, attempts to put a price on the priceless. We figure out the dollar value for an accidental death, another day of life, and the work of bats and bees as we try to keep our careful calculations from falling apart in the face of the realities of life, and love, and loss.”

The Buried Bodies Case / “In 1973, a massive manhunt in New York’s Adirondack Mountains ended when police captured a man named Robert Garrow.  And that’s when this story really gets started. This episode we consider a string of barbaric crimes by a hated man, and the attorney who, when called to defend him, also wound up defending a core principle of our legal s

ystem.  When Frank Armani learned his client’s most gruesome secrets, he made a morally startling decision that stunned the world and goes to the heart of what it means to be a defense attorney – how far should lawyers go to provide the best defense to the worst people?”

Patient Zero / “The greatest mysteries have a shadowy figure at the center—someone who sets things in motion and holds the key to how the story unfolds. In epidemiology, this central character is known as Patient Zero—the case at the heart of an outbreak. This hour, Radiolab hunts for Patient Zeroes from all over the map. We start with the story of perhaps the most iconic Patient Zero of all time: Typhoid Mary. Then, we dive into a molecular detective story to pinpoint the beginning of the AIDS, and we re-imagine the moment the virus that caused the global pandemic sprang to life. After that, we’re left wondering if you can trace the spread of an idea the way you can trace the spread of a disease. In the end, we find ourselves faced with a choice between competing claims about the origin of the high five. And we come to a perfectly sensible, thoroughly disturbing conclusion about the nature of the universe … all by way of the cowboy hat.”

Remembering Oliver Sacks / “When Radiolab was just starting out, Robert asked Dr. Oliver Sacks if he could help us, maybe send us a few story ideas. Over the years he has shared with us stories of chemistry, music, neurology, hallucinations and more, so much more. Because Oliver notices the world and the people around him with scientific rigor, with insight, and most importantly, with deep empathy. ?When he announced a few months ago that he had terminal cancer and wasn’t going to do any more interviews, we asked him if he’d talk with us one last time. He said yes?. So Robert went, as he has done for 30 some years now, to his apartment with a microphone, this time to

 ask him about the forces that have driven him in his work, in his unique relationships with his patients, and in his own life.”

Nazi Summer Camp / “Reporter Karen Duffin and her father were talking one day when, just as an aside, he mentioned the Nazi prisoners of war that worked on his Idaho farm when he was a kid. Karen was shocked … and then immediately obsessed. So she spoke with historians, dug through the National Archives and oral histories, and uncovered the astonishing story of a small town in Alabama overwhelmed by thousands of German prisoners of war.  Along the way, she discovered that a very fundamental question  – one that we are struggling with today  –  was playing out seventy years ago in hundreds of towns across America: When your enemy is at your mercy, how should you treat them? Karen helps Jad and Robert try to figure out why we did what we did then, and why we are doing things so differently now.”

Playing God / “When people are dying and you can only save some, how do you choose? Maybe you save the youngest. Or the sickest. Maybe you even just put all the names in a hat and pick at random. Would your answer change if a sick person was standing right in front of you? In this episode, we follow New York Times reporter Sheri Fink as she searches for the answer. In a warzone, a hurricane, a church basement, and an earthquake, the question remains the same. What happens, what should happen, when humans are forced to play god?”

I feel like this podcast might be the “Parenthood” of podcasts, which makes me slightly hesitant to put it so far at the top of my list of favorites, but hey! I’m not here to be cutting edge, just to be honest about what I enjoy listening to. And while my friends would chat about how they laughed and cried during the most recent amazing “Parenthood” episode (may it rest in peace), I would be over here asking if they had caught the most recent “This American Life” episode. Yep, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and your heart and mind will be a bit more open after each show that Ira Glass hosts.

Tell Me I’m Fat / episode 589 / “The way people talk about being fat is shifting. With one-third of Americans classified as overweight, and another third as obese, and almost none of us losing weight and keeping it off, maybe it’s time to rethink the way we see being fat.”

It Says So Right Here / episode 509 / “Everyone knows you can’t always believe what you read, but sometimes even official documents aren’t a path to the truth. This week we have stories of people whose lives are altered when seemingly boring documents like birth certificates and petitions are used against them. And a family wrestles with a medical record that has a very clear, but complicated diagnosis.”

Prom / episode 186 / “While the seniors danced at Prom Night 2001 in Hoisington, Kansas—a town of about 3,000—a tornado hit the town, destroying about a third of it. When they emerged from the dance, they discovered what had happened, and in the weeks that followed, they tried to explain to themselves why the tornado hit where it did. Plus other stories that happen on Prom Night.”

My Pen Pal / episode 246 / “Stories of very unusual pen pals, including a ten-year-old girl from Michigan who befriends Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.”

You may be seeing a theme, here. I love hearing peoples’ stories, and The Moth is such a fresh way to experience them! Story tellers stand up on stage and have a few minutes to tell their stories to a live audience. Sometimes it’s about a childhood experience, overcoming obstacles in life, or a fun story about adolescent phone calls with an actual rock star. Every podcast is such a fun, refreshing listen!

School Night / A teenager does a newspaper review of an Iggy Pop album and gets a surprising response.

The Pieties of Perspiration / Adam Gopnik battle liberal guilt with his son in a sauna.

I love listening to Fresh Air to get a glimpse into the hearts and minds of my favorite actors, musicians, and writers, but also to find out about interesting stories and people that are completely new to me. Giving people a space to tell their story and ask the questions we all have, or some that we haven’t considered, interviewer Terry Gross recently celebrated 30 years of on-air experience with Fresh Air. Here are some favorite episodes of mine that come to mind, but don’t neglect to scroll through the archives to see what jumps out at you! There’s a lot there to love.

Aziz Ansari– On “Master of None” and How His Parents Feel About Acting

Lynsey Addario– Twice kidnapped, photographer returns to war zone: “It’s What I Do”

Peggy Orenstein– “Girls & Sex” and the Importance of Talking to Young Women About Pleasure

Jeff Guinn– “The Road to Jonestown” Nearly 40 years later, Jonestown offers a lesson in demagoguery

If you’re interested in the human psyche and how it affects our personal lives and our society, or maybe you want to hear about some interesting true stories where differing personalities and ways of thinking dictated the plot, you must give Invisibilia a listen! It’s compelling, engaging, and kind of feels like a happy medium between RadioLab and This American Life.

Reality / “How is it that two neighbors can look out their window at the exact same thing, and see something completely different? This is a question many people in America are asking now. We explore it by visiting a small community in Minnesota, called Eagle’s Nest Township, that has a unique experience with the reality divide: some of the people in the town believe that wild black bears are gentle animals you can feed with your hands, and others think they are dangerous killers. This divide leads to conflict and, ultimately, a tragic death. So, is there a “real” truth about the bear, or is each side constructing its own reality? In part two we look at attempts to escape these self-made constructs. We follow one man’s epic experiment to break out of his reality bubble. And one woman’s epic-in-its-own-way experiment to break out of her species bubble!”

Flip the Script / “In this episode we look at situation where someone flips the script – does the opposite of what their natural instinct is, and in this way transforms a situation. Usually when someone is hostile to us, we are hostile right back. The psychological term is “complementarity.” But then in rare cases someone manages to be warm, and what happens as a result can be surprising. The episode starts with a story about a dinner party in DC, when an attempted robbery was foiled by… a glass of wine and some cheese. Then we travel across the pond, to Denmark, where police officers are attempting to combat the growing problem of Islamic radicalization with… love. And finally, we talk to a man who attempted to flip the script on one of our most basic animal functions: finding a mate.”



Do Listen Twice is a ten episode series created to promote the film Don’t Think Twice. This American Life Host Ira Glass teams up with comedian Mike Birbiglia to present his favorite stories that Birbiglia has told on the podcast over the years. This series had me laughing out loud while staining lumber for hours alone in my dining room.

Okay, so if you were on the internet at all in 2014, you’ve heard about this true-crime podcast. If you never listened to season one of Serial, what are you waiting for? The story explores the details of the murder of teenager Hae Min Lee and attempts to explore the possible innocence of the young man Adnan Syed who was convicted of murdering his ex girlfriend. I never got into season two of Serial, but season one consumed my podcast listening during the fall it was released!

From the creators of Serial comes the podcast series S-Town, which begins as a true-crime story about a possible murder cover up in a small Alabama town, but develops into an interesting look at the life of an eccentric recluse who befriended radio journalist Brian Reed and polarized the people in S*** Town, Alabama.

You Must Remember This is a podcast that explores the lives, scandals, and forgotten history of Hollywood’s golden age. Basically, this podcast was made for me!

I began listening to Snap Judgement last year, and was intrigued by the Halloween episodes. I also loved the recent one about the one-legged wrestler that I caught during a Saturday afternoon trip to the hardware store. It was definitely a parking lot moment. (All of you NPR listeners will appreciate that. Ha!) 

Malcom Gladwell explores history from angles other historians have forgotten or have left hidden through time in this podcast, Revisionist History

A friend recommended I listen to this podcast after we had been talking about myths and legends that we really hope were real. I loved listening in on the meandering conversations about The Mothman on Astonishing Legends, and my imagination is still running wild!

How to Create an Idyllic Childhood Summer

Radio Flyer Giveaway

When I think about my childhood summers, I think about never-ending games of Capture the Flag, sharing swiftly melting popsicles with the neighbors, catching lightning bugs in a jar with holes poked in the lid (did that even help those poor things?), solo bike rides around the neighborhood with no hands on the handlebars, discovering creepy earwigs crawling on my sleeping bag during campouts on the back porch, chlorine-crusted hair that still smelled of campfires in the morning, watching neighborhood pick-up baseball games from the roof of my dad’s Oldsmobile Cutlass. I know my memories are colored with the nostalgia of an idyllic childhood, but I can’t help but mourn the loss of a carefree childhood that perhaps my children will never enjoy.

Gone are the days when parents simply tell their children to “go play outside and be home by dinnertime.” I am old enough to remember hearing all of the neighborhood moms calling their children to come home for dinner. But that will never be me. I feel like if my kids are outdoors, it’s my duty to vigilantly watch their every move, maybe not hovering, but certainly engaging with them and looking out for their safety. It stresses me out to the point where they don’t tend to go outside as much as they probably should. But I worry about child abductors, broken legs, stray balls begging to be caught, and heck, even bee stings.

Did my parents think about those parental concerns as much as I do now? Maybe they did, but perhaps they felt safe enough, knowing their neighbors well enough that they felt comfortable giving us a little more independence each Summer. Either way, I lived for those hot, carefree days, and I often wonder if my children will be able to experience a similar childhood. Lately I’ve thought maybe I should just let go of the pressure to recreate something similar for them. After all, we live in different times.

Radio Flyer Giveaway

Now that Phil and I are using most of our spare moments to renovate our new house, I worry even more that my children are missing out on some kind of idyllic image of what I want their childhood to be. Maybe I’m too worried about personal productivity and my children’s safety, and therefore am missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a mom. Am I being too hard on myself? It’s not as if I have them plopped in front of the tv while I mindlessly scroll through apps on my phone. But I do try to be aware of how we spend these days of their childhood, as fleeting as they may be.

My own parents worked on home renovations during much of my childhood, and my dad was always building furniture in his garage workshop. (Now you know where I get it from, eh?) But I don’t remember missing out on fun family experiences. Did they purposefully set aside time to put down the hammer and power drill to get out and bond as a family? I’m pretty sure the answer is yes! How else would I have such great memories with my family as a kid?

I know that I’ll never be comfortable just telling my kids to “go outside and play,” unless I can see them easily from where I sit or work, but that doesn’t mean my kids won’t have special memories of Summers as I did. It just requires a little more planning, I think. And hey, I like planning, so I’m pretty confident I’m up to the task!

Recently I made a list of all of those things I mentioned earlier that made my childhood summers feel magical, and I realized I don’t actually need an idyllic Pleasantville-style neighborhood to make any of them happen. They just require making space in our lives, which means knowing when to quit working on house projects so we can spend time with our kids, without phones or other distractions.

Idyllic Childhood Summer

So what does our Idyllic Childhood Summer list look like? It’s not a list to make me feel stressed about completing it or failing as a mom, but it gives us some fun ideas of things to do together as a family, building our relationships with our kids and gifting them with memories that I hope they’ll always cherish. And if we don’t get around to everything this summer, hey! There’s always next year, right?

  1. Help Lucy learn how to ride a bike
  2. Have as many picnic dinners as possible
  3. Go berry picking
  4. Take the kids to the beach
  5. Catch lightning bugs
  6. Enjoy a campfire and make s’mores with friends
  7. Go to the fair and let Lucy go on as many rides as she wants
  8. Make popsicles to share with friends (Did that already!)
  9. Go camping with friends (probably will just be in one of our yards!)
  10. See fireworks
  11. Pool days
  12. Play dates at the park

Idyllic Childhood Summer

Radio Flyer Giveaway

Idyllic Childhood Summer

We recently got Lucy a Radio Flyer balance bike to help her gain confidence riding a bike without needing training wheels. It’s been difficult to motivate her to try something more challenging than a trike, but The Radio Flyer travel agency has given us some fun ideas to motivate her to get outside and learn to ride, engaging her creativity as we imagine fun destinations she can get to from within the comfort of our neighborhood park! But only on her Radio Flyer balance bike. :)

enter to win

When I think of timeless, nostalgic toys, Radio Flyer is the first brand that comes to mind. The classic children’s toy company was started in 1917 by Antonio Pasin, whose dream was to “bring joy to every boy and every girl.” Today Radio Flyer is still admired for their attention to quality and consistency in quality and design. Some things really do never change!

To celebrate their 100 anniversary, Radio Flyer is giving away one toy daily until June 30th. Check out the Stars and Stripes Giveaway and enter to win! The prize changes every day. Share your own family’s Radio Flyer adventures on Instagram and tag them with #radioflyer100 for an extra chance to win.

Idyllic Childhood Summer

Radio Flyer Giveaway

Did you have a red wagon when you were a kid? We used ours to transport supplies for fort building and other neighborhood adventures. Maybe I should add a Radio Flyer wagon to our summertime list, eh? Oh, and be sure to check out Radio Flyer on Facebook and Instagram for an extra dose of nostalgia!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Radio Flyer. The opinions and text are all mine. 

How To Be There for Someone with Cancer

how to be there for someone with cancer

“I have cancer.” The words are the most difficult I’ve ever had to say. But while I didn’t want to believe it myself, I desperately didn’t want to put the weight of my diagnosis on the loved ones around me. Maybe your friend or family member has recently shared the life-changing news with you or with a good friend of yours. What do you do now? What do you say? Do you cry with them? Do you stay strong for them? How can you support them during this time? After my diagnosis, I had a lot of people on the internet reach out and ask me similar questions, and knowing that everyone’s experience is different, I was too timid to give them an answer.

But here I am, three years later, understanding that this is a universal problem for the loved ones of a cancer patient, and sadly, it’s also the factor that leads to the patient’s loneliness and feelings of alienation. It’s a tricky situation all around. Hearing the news of a bad diagnosis can be a crippling experience for the family and friends of a cancer patient, which leads to hesitation to get involved, reach out, or offer support, for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

I understand how at a loss you might feel in a situation when someone has just told you they have cancer. You’ll probably feel like crying after the initial shock subsides. But do you cry? You don’t want your sick loved one to worry about your feelings at this time. And you definitely don’t want them to think that you think they’re dying. But wait, are they dying? What do you even say? What do you do? It can feel like any decision you make is the wrong one.

Let me assure you, there is no “right way” to react. If you worry that you may have put your foot in your mouth by saying or doing the wrong thing, don’t worry! You can apologize for it later and make up for it by just being around your loved one and by offering your support. In general, being authentic can be very refreshing at a time when everyone else seems to be walking on eggshells. When people are tip-toeing around you because you have cancer, it can make you feel like it is up to you put everyone at ease, rather than facing your own emotional and relational needs. So remember, be authentic. And just be there. How? Well, let’s talk about some of the trickier needs most cancer patients are dealing with, and then I’ll talk about more practical ways you can help.

cancer-emotional-needs

cancer-patients-are-lonely

Spending time with your loved one is the easiest way to be there after a cancer diagnosis, but it can seem so difficult to make the first move. I implore you to stop thinking and worrying about it! Just do it. Hop in your car. Buy a plane ticket. Plan lunch. Bring coffee. Send flowers. Pick up the phone. Like I said, so many people don’t know what to do or say, so they just don’t do or say anything. And meanwhile, at a time when they one most value connection and time with loved ones, the cancer patient will often find herself alone.



cancer-patients-need-to-laugh

For me, just being around a group of friends was a great outlet and opportunity for laughter. It felt a little odd if nobody acknowledged what I was dealing with, but dwelling on my illness wasn’t what I wanted either. Usually I just needed friends to acknowledge what I’m going through and that they care, but then I wanted to just move on and partake in the usual fun shenanigans.

Don’t feel a lot of pressure to be a comedian. If you’re not really the funny friend, that’s okay, you can still help add some comic relief! Take your loved one with cancer out to see a comedy show or a funny movie that they’ve been wanting to see. Maybe just rent an old favorite and watch it at home where they can be comfortable. If it feels like a lot of pressure to do something one-on-one, ask a mutual friend to join you. Planning a game night with a group of friends would be a great idea.

I remember during the weeks I was recovering from surgery and waiting to undergo radiation, and I felt so alone and… well, just weird. Nothing seemed normal. But my friend Kara stopped by one day when I had some down time. We sat outside on my patio just talking about life and laughing together. Then she pulled out a cigarette and said, “You want one? I mean, you already have cancer, so….” And I laughed hysterically and so appreciated her ease around me, helping me feel like it was just like old times, even though I had cancer and she was directly acknowledging it in perhaps the most uncouth manner. No eggshells there!

cancer-patients-need-to-talk-about-their-feelings

Ask questions, and listen. Don’t assume your loved one is scared or worried. I actually had the unusual experience of not being afraid or worried after my diagnosis. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have disconcerting feelings and dark thoughts. I hesitate to even offer advice about this, because everyone has different ways of communicating, and different levels of vulnerability. But having cancer may make someone more vulnerable than ever. Don’t be afraid to boldly ask, “Are you afraid?” or “Are you angry?” You could soften the questions with, “If I’m intruding, just let me know and we can talk about something else.” But sometimes it helps to have someone draw out illusive feelings with leading questions, without relating your experience to someone else they know or something that they themselves had gone through. I would caution against comparing your experiences with theirs, even if you think it’s safe by prefacing it with “I know it’s not the same thing, but…” It may still feel like you are minimizing or distorting their experience to a degree. It’s safer to just stick to talking about how your friend is feeling.

If they feel alone because nobody around them understands what they’re experiencing, and you actually do know someone who lived through a very similar experience, offer to connect them by having lunch with each of them at the same time, or offer to connect them on Facebook. I found a support group page for people with my rare form of cancer on Facebook, and that has been a great outlet to find others who understand what I’m going through. This could be a helpful suggestion, though some people might be resistant.

In general, I would say that you probably know your friend better than me, so it is up to you to try to gauge the conversation so you don’t push them too far. If you try to have a serious emotional talk, and there is resistance, maybe it is a better time to offer an escape, a laugh, or just a fun time.

how to be there for someone with cancer

physical needs of cancer patients

Because everyone’s needs and feelings are different, and often change from day to day, my first thought is that you should just ask your loved one how you can be there for them after their cancer diagnosis. Maybe they will give you an honest answer. Or maybe they don’t know what they’re feeling or needing, or they (like me) are a bit too prideful to let you know. Oftentimes those diagnosed with cancer don’t want to be a burden to their loved ones. So keep that in mind, and if you suspect that might be the case with your loved ones, there are some practical ways you can help meet their needs while assuaging their pride. Most likely some of these struggles below will affect your loved one, and you can help without having to say, “Let me know how I can help.” (Because they probably won’t.)



cancer-patients-need-help-driving

I had to drive three hours a day, round-trip, to my cancer treatment which lasted a total of five weeks. It was exhausting, expensive, and could have been very lonely. My mom went with me most days, my mother-in-law and cousin pitched in, and one time a friend accompanied me, which actually made the trip a lot of fun! If your loved one is up for it, do something fun right after treatment. I have to caution you, depending on what treatment they received, they may just need rest afterwards. But if you’d like to share some fun experiences with them, don’t wait until they’re halfway through their treatment regimen. The side effects get worse and worse, so doing fun things during the first couple weeks might be the only opportunity until after they’ve recovered.

cancer-and-hunger

Depending on the treatment they’re receiving, your friend may be struggling to eat. Bringing food for the rest of the family can be helpful, especially if the cancer patient is the one who usually prepares meals for the family. Keep in mind that the cancer patient herself might not be able to eat the same foods as her family. Ask her or her family what she’s been eating, and bring that to her home. I lived on smoothies, so I needed lots of prepped vegetables, fruits, milled flax seed, and that sort of thing. My issue was not only that I couldn’t taste food, but also that my mouth wasn’t producing saliva. So every time I tried to salivate I would break out in painful blood blisters on my cheeks and under/around my tongue. This happened whenever I saw yummy food or put anything into my mouth— even my toothbrush. Other people may have lost their appetite altogether, or may feel extremely nauseous and can only stomach certain foods. This is so frustrating both physically and emotionally for the patient, as you can probably imagine. My grandma loved the comfort of ice cream when she went through chemo. I tried eating ice cream during my treatment and cried because I couldn’t taste it and it just gave me blisters in my mouth. For someone who is used to going to food for comfort, it’s a very emotional experience not being able to eat or taste food.

cancer-patients-are-tired

Cancer patients still have to go to work in most cases, and those patients with children are always on the clock. Offer to take the children to the park, library, or a fun destination that will get out their energy. Tell your friend to use this time to rest and take a nap. Before you leave, change the sheets on their bed, start a load of laundry, and finish the load when you return. Or maybe take laundry with you and bring it back clean and neatly folded the next day. That leads me to my next point.

Cancer patients have housework. How can you help?

Think of how difficult housework is to keep up with in your own home. And then imagine how difficult it is when you are losing hours a week traveling to doctors appointments, and then feeling zapped of all energy once you’re home. The cancer patient still feels like she should be contributing to housework, as ridiculous as that may seem. She still likes a clean house, and her children and pets still create messes while she rests on the sofa. The toilets are still being used, and the dishes are piling up beside the sink. You know what I’m about to say. Go over there and be her housekeeper!

If you can’t clean the whole house, at least do the dishes or take their laundry with you and bring it back neatly folded the next day.

Please keep in mind how incredibly awkward it is to let someone in your home to clean up after you, especially when you’re right there sitting on the sofa, feeling like a lazy bum— even though you’re just a fatigued cancer patient. So I recommend you team up with another helpful friend who will take your loved one out of the house while it’s being cleaned. The two of them can do something fun and relaxing, like a pedicure, a massage, or a trip to the movies. Then, the next week, you can be the one to go out and do the fun thing while your helpful friend stays and cleans.

Having a clean house is so refreshing and can lift pounds of stress and anxiety from the shoulders of someone relaxing at home during cancer treatment. If you’re not able to clean for her because of distance or time, please consider hiring a regular maid service to help her for a month or two. She might not ever consider doing this for herself, but this sacrifice on your part might be the most support she’ll receive during her experience with cancer.



Cancer patients have children. How can you help?

As I mentioned before, offer to get the children out of the house so your friend can rest. Or offer to stay at home with the kids while he or she runs errands or does something fun with another friend. Maybe your friend needs a date night, or just a night of uninterrupted sleep. If you’re a trusted friend of the family, why not offer to keep the children overnight, or stay at her house to help out with babies and children through the night? I had cancer and a small baby at the same time, and having help with kids made me feel refreshed and stronger than ever.

Cancer-patients-have-financial-needs.-How-can-you-help-

Cancer takes a toll emotionally and physically, but it can absolutely decimate people financially. Many people would not admit to floundering financially, and would not feel comfortable taking money if offered. But that doesn’t mean you can’t assist anonymously if you’re able. Our church office called us one day to tell us that an anonymous someone wanted to know how much money we needed to pay off all of my medical bills. We were very uncomfortable with this, even though we believe this is what the church family is for. So we told them an amount that would certainly help (but would still leave us with debt), and then we received a money order for that amount in the mail. Of course I cried all the way to the bank. Another friend arranged a fund amongst some of my friends from the old days of scrapbook blogging and chatting on message boards. They all gave what they could, the sum of which added up to be very helpful. Yes, I cried again.

Maybe if you feel like your friend won’t be comfortable with receiving money (anonymously or otherwise), you could send gift cards to grocery stores, gas stations, or even retail shops. Retail gift cards might seem like an impractical way to help, but I know that if I received money, it would go directly to my medical bills, and I would feel guilty spending it on anything else. Giving a retail gift card gives that person permission to indulge in some retail therapy, or provide a Christmas for their family that they had thought would be impossible after their cancer diagnosis.

I remember wanting to go on a trip with Phil, because I didn’t know what our future held, and I felt the immediacy of my relationship with him (and of course with my whole family). But we just didn’t have the money. So we never did. Someday, I want to be so on top of our finances that I can afford to buy a getaway for a friend who, God forbid, might have cancer, so she can have some quality time with her husband. This is just an idea for those who are well off financially and who want to know ways they can dramatically support a loved one with cancer.

what makes a shadow

what not to do for someone with cancer

First of all, I know these might not be true for everyone, but they were true for me. And if you said or did one of these things to me when I was diagnosed, please don’t feel bad. I’m just glad that you cared enough to reach out to show your concern and give your support. But also, just know that these aren’t the best things to do or say, so if you want to be sensitive to your loved one with cancer, take note.

Don't offer to connect them with your homeopathic doctor.

You might ask them if they’re happy with their care, and if they’re not, you may then ask if they’re interested in alternative medicine. If the answer is yes, then by all means connect them with a homeopathic doctor you trust.

Don't tell them a story about someone you know who had cancer.

Even if the story had a happy ending, it can across as desperate for good news and encouragement, which inadvertently tells them that their situation is so sad you need to manufacture hope. Your friend with cancer is unique, and the struggle they’re embarking on is unique. Everyone’s diagnosis is different, as is their treatment, prognosis, and certainly the type of cancer. I was in a unique position because the type of cancer I have is extremely rare, and it isn’t made up of cancer cells like most others. It is cancerous in behavior only, and there’s not much known about the tumors themselves. Most likely nobody personally knew someone with my same type of cancer, and even if they did, our stories would be vastly different. This is another reason why suggesting forms of treatment or doctors is a bit ridiculous. I doubt if many homeopathic doctors know anything about cancerous paragangliomas, and it’s just exhausting trying to explain this to people who brought up alternative treatment ideas. So I would usually just smile and nod, and feel a bit worked up on the inside.

Now this is not to say that you can’t say something like, “My brother-in-law has cancer too.” Or, “My aunt has cancer too. I’m not quite sure how to be there for her.” This is a way of connecting, and isn’t necessarily relating someone else’s experience to your loved one’s experience. I guess if you’re wondering, you can always ask, “Does it frustrate you when people tell you stories about other people they know with cancer?”



don't-give-them-brochures

Again, feel free to ask if they’re interested in more information about new treatment options or centers you’ve heard about, or about support groups that could be helpful. If the answer is yes, then by all means, provide them with material. But I would always ask first.

cancer-merchandise

Perhaps you bought something with a ribbon on it to donate your money in support of those with cancer, and you’d like your friend with cancer to know and feel your support. So you give it to them as a gift. But I personally wouldn’t know what to do with something like that practically speaking, and besides, why would donate to a charity supporting those with cancer, when someone in need of financial support is right in front of you? Maybe it’s awkward to offer financial help, but I already mentioned a bunch of financial ways you can that might be less awkward than just writing a check. I guarantee however you could financially help, it will be more appreciated than the cancer tchotchkes.

cancer industry conspiracies

As convinced as you may be that your loved one is being fleeced by a flawed medical industry, telling them about it is not helpful. It makes their experience more about you and your ideas than about them and their plight. Clearly they have confidence in their doctors and the medical field or they would be pursuing alternative forms of treatment. Just spouting off your theories and vitriol of the industry will shake up your loved one and may take away one of the few confidences they have— confidence in their caregivers. This particular warning takes the cake for me. Please, don’t be “that guy.”

just-be-there

These are all good things to think about and consider, but the best way you can help someone with cancer is to quit overanalyzing everything and just be there for them! Show your care and concern. Offer your prayers, and don’t feel the need to always tell them that you’re praying. Just pray, if that’s what you’re convicted to do. Tell them you’re thinking about them. Send them flowers. And let them know that they are loved.

For those interested in my cancer journey, here are some past posts I’ve written about my experiences.

All illustrations are created by Adrienne Adams for the 1962 children’s book “What Makes a Shadow?”

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