I have a friend that was recently diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer- the worst kind. Just wondering if anyone has any experience with this. She starts chemo tomorrow and I am wanting to get her some things to make her comfortable. Any suggestions?
No experience with that type of chemo. I’m so sorry. It sounds like an awful diagnosis. Is she having surgery and radiation? - reading about it it sounds like that is standard.
Maybe a nice blanket/throw to bring to chemo or a Barefoot Dreams cardigan (I lived in mine at my chemo sessions).
I used a large S’well water bottle to drink during those long hours. She may like hard candy to suck on during chemo - dry mouth can be an issue. I don’t know what it will be like for her, however, if she has surgery first.
(((Hugs))) you are a good friend.
“ There is something uncannily adaptive about anti-Semitism: the way it can hide, unsuspected, in the most progressive minds.” James Lasdun
I'm so sorry, I will keep your friend safely in my thoughts.
Many people like frivolous reading during chemo, I mostly slept. I was chilly and liked thick warm socks I could slip on once I was in my chair and took my shoes off. Dry mouth was a problem, I really liked the Biotene mouthwash and mouth spray. I liked hard candies to suck on as my chemo infusion started , because it caused a super bitter taste in my mouth. I also carried packets of saltines for the drive home because at the beginning it made me nauseous.
I hate that her prognosis is so bleak. Is there some way to see if she would like to document anything for her loved ones?
Elaine- Thank you!! I am trying to do what I can but just feel so helpless. Her prognosis isn’t good at all. This is one of the most aggressive cancers
What sad news. I’m sure you do feel helpless, but really you’re in a great position to be so helpful - by just being you, and by being her friend.
At times like this, many people start to taper off their contact with the diagnosed person because they don’t know what to do, they feel embarrassed etc; and of course that is the least helpful th8ng for the person concerned.
A couple of notes based on my own experience with endometrial cancer 11 years ago (with no problems since), and my cousin’s thyroid cancer from which he didn’t recover....
While it’s ok to say “let me know if there’s anything I can do”, also be proactive and just do things that you think might be appreciated. Take a meal or two over to her sometimes, even if she isn’t the one preparing meals now. Turn up at her house and say you are there to vacuum and mop the floors, or do all the laundry waiting to be done, or wash the windows, or whatever. Decide what you would like to do, go to her house and tell her you are there to do it, then do it. Don’t ask if she wants it done, it’s too easy to say No because you don’t want to be a ‘burden’. You will quickly the idea if she really does think you are being intrusive, in which case apologise and reassure you won’t do it again, but I doubt your help would be taken like that, and I bet she would appreciate the intent of your help anyway.
Ring her as usual, call on her as usual, whatever form your friendship takes. Chat about anything, accept that sometimes she will feel like chatting back and sometimes she would rather just listen, and sometimes she would rather be alone. Ask her to be honest with you and tell you if she doesn’t want your company, your call etc. Tell her you value her company but you don’t want to cause her any discomfort or distress and you would rather be told straight up if she doesn’t want contact that day. Then accept it is because of how she is feeling and isn’t anything to do with you.
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO MENTION OR ASK AFTER HER CANCER, HER HEALTH (sorry for shouting, but it’s important). So often people are afraid to mention it because they don’t want to upset the person, but believe me, they won’t have forgotten about it. It won’t have gone out of their mind until you mention it. Her cancer is her “new normal’ and it actually reassuring when other people can treat it as ‘normal’ as possible too. You might even like to make a note of any symptoms she mentions so that you can ask how they are later on. My cousin occasionally mentioned in passing about the neuropathy he felt (numbness in fingers and toes) and it meant a lot to him when someone asked a week later how it was.
Most importantly, don’t taper off your contact but also don’t become ‘overly enthusiastic’ - just be you and be her friend; that is often even more important that any of the practical things that people want to do. Tell her you want to make things as easy as possible for her - tell her that in so many words, don’t assume she should know. Yes, she will know you mean because of her poor prognosis, but that will be ok for her. She is facing her own morbidity and that is scary, sad, and all the other feelings; but for her to know that it won’t scare you off will mean a lot to her!
And come back here if/when you need your own moral support. The Peas will be there for you.
ETA - I meant to mention ‘survivor’s guilt’ to you. It’s a real thing and can be hard on you if you’re not prepared. I felt terrible with my cousin who was diagnosed with his cancer a year after I was diagnosed with mine. I was surviving, he was not going to; after I talked about it with him, I found I was more upset about that than he was. He was pragmatic about his prognosis and didn’t bear any resentment toward me, for which I was very grateful. I had earlier found some people some people who had never had cancer felt almost guilty because they were ok, and I wasn’t while I was going through my treatment. I didn’t bear them any resentment either. If you find yourself feeling any of this guilt remember it is faulty thinking, and there is no reason for you feel guilty. Recognise it and talk to someone about it, don’t let it get in the way of your friendship with your friend.
My mother-in-law died of this. She was 87. She started radiation and they realized it wasn't helping. She died 6 weeks after being diagnosed. If you bring her any food, I would recommend soft and nothing spicy. It happened so quickly with my mother-in-law that she was in denial. The hospital tried convincing her to go into hospice and she refused. Then some idiot doctor told her a unit at a teaching hospital could help her. She got there and they didn't know what to do for her. She ended up in ICU, on a feeding tube and breathing tube which would get dislodged due to the tumor pushing it and they would have to bag her until they could get it back in place. My mother-in-law was alert through all of this but couldn't talk because the tumor was so large and growing rapidly. Finally the new hospital said she had to go to hospice. I'll never forget my husband going into her room and saying, "guess what, you are leaving here". Her eyes completely lit up until he told her where she was going. She completely shut down after that and died a few days later.
As someelse said, just be there for her. She will need your support in one way or another, whether it is meals, tidying up, helping her to the bathroom...just giving her company.