10/29/2014 12:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Being There

Blend Images - Dave and Les Jacobs via Getty Images

I am lucky all those bumps and bruises I inflicted on my head growing up as a rowdy kid don't actually show. I know this because my children and husband shaved my head bald just over a week ago, amid giggles and uproarious laughter by friends and strangers alike. My family bid for the right to put electric clippers to my head as part of an auction to help a local woman named Angela get to Seattle to have lifesaving stem cell treatment to fight leukemia. The event raised many thousands of dollars, and I kept campaigning through Facebook to continue to help her, but sadly we found out late last night that beautiful Angela ran out of time and the cancer had beaten her.


Cancer devastated another of my friends today. Her precious and tiny mother was ravaged by the disease for such a long time and, in the end, the family prayed for a merciful release.

Am I sharing experiences you know nothing about? I expect not, as cancer is something with which most of us are all too familiar. It is unrelenting in its often unstoppable path, leaving anguished victims and survivors in its wake. As we come to the end of October, a month that has become closely affiliated with the color pink and cancer awareness, I want to shine a light on something that's been worrying me a bit.

Do you know someone suffering from cancer? Or maybe someone you care about has someone they care about who is? Either way, I hope you're doing something to help. You see, I believe there are a good many of us who might not know what to do and honestly believe it's better to stay out of the way and leave those who are sick to have time to themselves to focus on getting better. You may be the type who 'doesn't do hospitals'. Or you have so much turmoil in your life at the moment that you just do not have time or energy for anyone else's.

So here's my megaphone in your ear in response: You can do better than that! And here are a few very simple ideas how:

Ask what you can do.
But don't just leave it hanging like words on the wind. Think of specific ways you might help -- pick up the kids or bake a favorite dish to make life a little easier for them. Take home their baskets of laundry that need washing or mow their grass. Better yet, get your kids to pitch in too. No one's exempt from the goodness that comes from giving to another. Little kindnesses can make a world of difference to someone who is unwell.

You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering. -- Ernest Hemingway

Create spaces for a person who is sick, or for one close to another who is, to escape.
A gap in the seemingly endless parade of hospital stays, specialist appointments or medical treatments may be welcome. If they don't want to leave home or would rather be left alone, write a card by hand or deliver a small, thoughtfully prepared care package that can be left at the door or with loved ones.

Ask them when you can pick them up for the next doctor's office visit. And the next. Don't stop asking.
Just being there is the greatest support of all. Yes, hospitals are full of sick and dying people. And you may have already experienced this first-hand. The hardest and most genuinely caring thing to do is to put your own stresses and worries aside for the sake of someone else's. You'll find in doing this you feel much better for it.

I'd like to recommend you do everything you can to "be there" swiftly and constantly for those whom you know are ill. Cancer is sometimes so abrupt and other times so excruciatingly slow in its merciless advance, you may not ever get a call for help. Often people don't want to be a nuisance. I think it's always better to be refused than just assume you're not needed because you weren't asked.

Choose to be brave and purposeful with your time and your love. Put yourself in another's situation and think of things that might ease their burden. As my father used to say, "What each one of us needs is what each one of us needs to give."

You will likely find your gift of you will be gratefully received.

Love and hugs to you in your good life,