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Well, we do. A cervical cancer diagnosis, treatment and life beyond can certainly have some uplifting moments but girl those downward turns can really dig their nails into you! It’s quite common for women experiencing cervical cancer to feel overwhelmed and isolated and it’s at that point that a friend or family member can really make a difference.
However, it’s also entirely possible for our well intentioned loved ones to become the perfect embodiment of Mr Bean at this point, clumsily stumbling through words and deeds only serving to make us feel more isolated. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, well intentioned people come out of the woodwork to tell you they know someone who has had it and they were either the bravest person in the world – making us feel like the weakest – or they sadly didn’t survive – terrifying us or giving us survivor’s guilt.
But as a cancer community, we know that it can be a real minefield for loved ones in terms of what to say or do. As most of you will know, at Jo’s we’re pretty keen on trying to support and share tips and info where possible, so we’ve compiled a list of helpful suggestions that you can waft in front of loved ones or tactfully send in an email! And who better to help us with this than our wonderful online forum community.
The top tip from our community was to just ‘show up’. You don’t have to know the right thing to say or do but to want to be around us through the most difficult times is priceless. Those women who had friends and family who would allow them to continue to be themselves throughout their experience with cancer made a real difference. It’s ok to say “I don’t know what to say”, sometimes neither do we. It can be really tempting to tell our loved one that it’s all going to be ok, be strong, be positive but please don’t do it, it makes us feel worse!
The do-ers also got top vote. Offering specific help and then following through on the promises meant a great deal to the women who shared their experiences with us. Lifts to and from the hospital were key. Cooking the odd meal for the family that could just be heated up are an absolute godsend on chemo days or after surgery. If you have some time to spare, housework or picking up the kids can make a big difference to us feeling like we can cope. Practical help, really is help. But just please ask us first, as complicated as it may sound, there are times when we want to do things ourselves to feel normal.
If you call and we don’t want to talk, don’t take it personally. It may be that our head hasn’t come off the pillow for two days or is currently down the toilet bowl. We haven’t given up. We do still want to talk so please just try us again. Or send a funny text to let us know you remember that we like to laugh.
Our community were incredibly generous and shared some amazing stories and thoughts with us and so I just wanted to share a few of their words with you because they’re just too good not to.
"Apart from the house work and the cooking and the dog walking my boys and husband used to leave me little post it notes all over the house saying things like
"I was sometimes embarrassed over the time I had to be in there (the bathroom) and felt so stupid sitting on the loo or in tub for my sore butt but anytime I asked he would come sit beside the tub and we would just chat. To be honest I kind of miss those moments." Lolli888
"Just simply having a visit from a friend and chatting as you've always done , no cancer related conversations" Greeni
"I was lucky enough to have a wonderful sister, who was able to drop everything and look after me post radical hysterectomy and then some more when I was having chemo rads. I have often thought about what made her support so special, and I think it was the fact that she was there to listen to me if I needed to talk, but didn't bombard me with loads of questions about how I was feeling."Rachel57
"Understanding it's not a 'fix it' situation. When a loved one is hurt/poorly/upset all you want to do is take it away or fix it, and unfortunately you can't. Having someone just listen to you, and not judge, offer an opinion or a positive solution is bliss." Bumblebee25
"My friends brought out the 'old me' - the me that I knew, not this person who had cancer (if this makes sense). Sometime it's nice just to feel 'normal'" KazzaG
"The CEO of my company also called me the day I got diagnosed, it must have been a pretty difficult call for him to make, but I really appreciated it." Rachelw84
If you would like to talk to other women affected by cervical cancer, join our forum community.