Assembling Your Family & Friends
Learning that you have melanoma is a life-changing event for many people. From visits to specialists, surgeries, and more – melanoma can change your life in countless ways. For many people with melanoma, a strong network of family and friends is a crucial part of this journey. From joining you at your appointments or infusions, to helping with day-to-day tasks, or by providing emotional support – a strong network can make all the difference. Here are some tips to help you organize and make the most of your support system.
Why do I need a support system?
While your care team, in-person groups, and online patient communities like MRA’s Melanoma > Exchange are all great places for insight and support – nothing can replace the impact of supportive friends and family. Dealing with a melanoma diagnosis or treatment is incredibly stressful and having a strong network can make it easier to cope with your diagnosis or to handle day-to-day activities like running errands, cooking, cleaning, etc.
Tell Your Friends and Family
The first step in assembling your support team is sharing your diagnosis with your trusted circle of friends or loved ones. For many people, this can be very difficult. But know that you can share as much or as little information as you want and that you do not need to tell everyone, everything. You should expect to receive a wide range of responses, as no two people will respond to the news in quite the same way.
Asking for Help
Your friends and family will want to help you, but they won’t always know how to be helpful. So, keep an open line of communication and think of tasks that someone could help with. Don’t hesitate to be direct and to make your needs known. Little things like picking up dry cleaning, taking your kids to school, or preparing a meal can all make a big difference to you. It may be helpful to ask a close friend or family member to help you communicate your needs to your loved ones.
What kind of help should you ask for?
There are many ways your friends and family can help you, here are some ideas:
- Personal record organization—Asking an organized friend or family member to collect and manage your personal medical files is a great way to stay on top of your records and involve a loved one. Learn more about organizing your personal records here.
- Appointment Partner—Many people with melanoma appreciate bringing a friend or loved one to their medical appointments. In addition to providing emotional and logistical support, they also can lend a second set of ears and eyes. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you visit your doctor – so this can be very helpful to you. Your friend or loved one may also be willing to take notes for you during the conversation. This way, you can engage with the doctor and also have a record of what you discussed.
- Friends and Family Liaison—If you have a large network of friends and family that you would like to update, keeping everyone on the same page can quickly become overwhelming. Some people with melanoma choose to designate a ‘point person’ to communicate with each friend group, others use social media, group text messages, or websites like CaringBridge, which allow you share updates through journal entries with your friends all at once.
- Help with Children—Managing your new schedule with children can be particularly challenging. Asking for help in areas such as pick up/drop off, making lunches, or after-school activities, are small tasks that can make a big difference in the lives of your children and yourself.
- Cooked Meals—Asking for help preparing healthy meals for you and your family is a great way for your friends and family to help out. This is especially helpful when there is a schedule that allows you to plan out your week in advance. Here are websites that can help facilitate this like TakeThemAMeal.com and LotsaHelpingHands.com.
- Emotional Support—Your friends and family can be a great source of emotional support as you navigate diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Your friends and family may not know first-hand what you are dealing with – but having them there to listen and empathize can still be very important. You may want to supplement this by talking with other melanoma patients or survivors through MRA’s Melanoma > Exchange or in-person support groups.
- Daily Activities—You may need help performing day-to-day tasks or other household errands. Keep a list of things that your friends and family could help with, such as mowing the lawn, buying groceries, house repairs, and cleaning.
Were you or a loved one just diagnosed with melanoma? We have the resources to help.