While it can be said that no one is quite ready for cancer treatment, there are things that you and your loved ones can do to prepare prior to cancer surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy that can help make life’s logistics a little easier.
“This is the time you want to rally your friends and family around you,” says Marcia Donziger, founder of the Denver-based MyLifeLine.org cancer support website and a cancer survivor of 21 years who now serves in a leadership role at the Cancer Support Community. “The primary caregivers are typically the people in the thick of helping support you at home and at the doctor’s office, and they can use some help with other routine matters.”
Start by making a list of all the things you normally do in a day or a week. Keep a notebook close by so you can jot down things you forgot to put on the list. Some examples include:
- Buy groceries
- Pack school lunches
- Take children to and from school and extracurricular activities
- Walk dogs
- Cook dinner
- Do laundry
Create a separate list of help you might need during your treatment, such as rides to your appointments or someone to attend an appointment to take notes.
Once you’ve put together your list, you can use MyLifeLine, now a part of the Cancer Support Community, to ask for support. MyLifeLine is a private online “community” that is offered in this region through Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. Once you set up an account, you can create events and ask for volunteers. Events include items such as meals, rides, visiting hours, caregiver relief days – you can easily customize. Each event can be set as a recurring, if needed, and you designate the number of volunteers needed.
“It can be very challenging to coordinate all of this manually; MyLifeLine makes it more efficient,” Donziger explains. “Plus, it’s a nice place to direct people when they are asking how they can help. It allows them to volunteer for what they can do rather than putting someone on the spot.”
Unlike some patient sites, MyLifeLine is completely private and the patient “owns” the data, Donziger says. The patient—or caregiver—can choose to make the site searchable, such as through Google, or set it up as “by invitation only.” In addition to setting up a calendar, you can post updates, photos and requests for financial support. All funds collected go directly to the patient through a private account they set up like PayPal or Zelle—without any funds going to MyLifeLine.
Oncology research shows that a strong social support network can improve treatment outcomes by 20 percent, according to Donziger. Once you’ve started treatment, MyLifeLine is a good way to keep family and friends up to date on your treatment so that you don’t have to repeat your story every time someone helps out. “We get feedback all the time from patients who say, ‘When I’m with my friends, I don’t want to talk about my cancer. I want to talk about the Broncos or anything else, but not my cancer,’” Donziger says. A weekly update posted over the weekend allows everyone to get an update before they show up at your door.