Knowing how to navigate a friend or family member’s cancer journey can be tricky, especially if it’s one you haven’t experienced yourself. What should you do when a loved one with cancer is feeling better after a tough surgery or treatment? Or receives a good follow-up report from their oncologist? Or celebrates a cancer-related anniversary? Surely, these milestones are worth recognizing, but how?
For inspiration, we spoke with 27-year cancer survivor Saralyn Lash, who leads Relay For Life’s national community fundraising leadership team, about what she does for herself on the special anniversaries in her own journey. Whether it’s a big or small gesture, there are many ways you can show your loved one just how much you care about them—and about helping to end cancer for good. Read on for five thoughtful, respectful ideas for honoring these happy moments.
1. Treat them to something special
First, know that milestones may be different for all. “For some, the day of diagnosis is the day they truly become a survivor,” says Lash. Others may count a treatment anniversary, or the day they’re given good news as when becoming a survivor starts.
“I think the first year is an especially important milestone to acknowledge,” she says. Lash likes to take the day off from work and do something—like book a massage—to remind herself how special the day is. Consider treating them with a gift card for their favorite kind of pampering, or with lunch or a drink if you live nearby.
Even just sending a card shows you care, says Lash. “As a friend or a loved one, anything you can do to make the day special is a fantastic way to acknowledge survivorship,” she says.
2. Make a donation in their name
You can show your loved one just how much you care about putting an end to cancer by making a donation in their name to an organization such as the American Cancer Society. The ACS fights cancer’s impact through conducting and funding medical research, advocating for policy changes that help and protect people who have cancer, and offering support, resources, and guidance for people with cancer and their caregivers—and it’s funded entirely through donations.
Here’s how it works: Click on the donate now link, choose your tax-deductible donation amount, and select that it is in honor of a loved one. You can then let that person know by sending an e-card or paper card. Another idea: Honor a cancer survivor with a “mosaic page,” an online space to post pictures, share stories, and raise funds for the fight against cancer.
3. Make a memory book
One heartfelt way to celebrate a loved one’s cancer survivorship is to gather photos from throughout your friendship and compile them into a photo album, memory book, or scrapbook. Even a beautifully framed photo of one of their life’s best moments can become a cherished gift. “Pictures are super important during and after your cancer journey,” says Lash.
4. Shout them out on social media
If your friend is comfortable with it (check first!), dedicate and share a post about their milestones on your social media pages. Calling out those numbers—one treatment, last treatment, one year, two years, five years—not only celebrates the major accomplishment, but it may offer encouragement to someone who is newly diagnosed.
“Sometimes sharing is all you need to do to provide hope to someone else,” says Lash. What a way to honor the cancer survivor in your life!
5. Spread awareness
Don’t forget, you can honor a survivor’s journey by simply advocating for cancer awareness and showing your support within your own circle of family and friends. It can be as casual as “remind[ing] a friend to get a cancer screening or hold[ing] someone’s hand while they wait for a mammogram,” says Lash.
Small acts that help spread the word about prevention and early detection and showing up for others going through their own journey create a huge ripple effect. Whether it’s making a donation or nudging a friend to get screened, your impact on the lives of others is a lot bigger than you think.
This post was created by SheKnows for The American Cancer Society.