During or After Breast Cancer Treatment: Getting Help from Loved Ones

Phyllis Johnson Health Guide

    For a week after my mastectomy, my husband's office fed us.  Every night a different colleague showed up with supper.  What a wonderful relief it was not to have to worry about food while I was healing.  How grateful we were for the open hearts of  a caring work community!


    One of my main regrets about how I responded to my cancer is that I didn't let people help us more often.  Somehow it was more important to me to be independent than to graciously accept the assistance that people offered. 


    I can think of other times when I have wanted to help out a sick friend, but I didn't want to call at an inconvenient time or duplicate others' efforts.  Too often I ended up doing nothing.

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    Two websites I recently learned about can help both situations.  Lotsa Helping Hands and CareCalendar coordinate volunteers.  Most of us have just a week or two when we need the casserole brigade, but mothers of little children and people on long-term aggressive treatment may need more coordinated help over the course of months.


    Both of these calendars have similar features.  A coordinator lists the ways the family could use help:  rides to the doctor, childcare, a meal, and so forth.  The site for a particular community of helpers is password protected to maintain privacy.  Volunteers who want to help sign up for the day and the task that they can do.  An email reminds them of what they promised.  


    Lotsa Helping Hands is designed for any type of community that needs to coordinate a large number of volunteers.  The website (


    describes the service like this, "Lotsa Helping Hands is a private, web-based volunteer coordination service that allows family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to organize and create community - whether it is arranging for child care and meals delivery, neighborhood organizing during a temporary crisis, or setting up activities for a youth action program.  Each community includes an intuitive group calendar for scheduling tasks, a platform for securely sharing vital information with designated community members, and customizable sections for sharing photos, blogs, journals, and announcements."

    CareCalendar is a ministry of the Bortel family. Dave Bortel explains on the website

    (http://www.carecalendar.org),"CareCalendar was created based on my experiences of coordinating meals and other care that family and friends offered after Suzanne had emergency surgery. She was very weak and was unable to care for herself and our large family for several weeks.  At the time, we had 9 children living at home. The logistics of keeping their needs met AND being available for my wife were too much for me to handle on my own. I needed help!  I called several family members and close friends on the phone, but repeatedly explaining the situation was very draining emotionally." 


    Dave soon had plenty of volunteers, but found that coordinating who would do what and when was very time-consuming, so he wrote a calendar computer program that could maintain itself.  Now the family makes his computer program available for others who need to coordinate volunteers.


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    I've heard from people who have been happy using each of these programs.  If you have been wondering how to coordinate the help you need or if you have been wondering how to help a friend, check out the websites for these two groups.  Many open-hearted people want to help.  These websites may be just the way to turn good-hearted offers into a meal or a ride to the doctor.



Published On: February 21, 2010