When you and your family are in the thick of cancer treatment, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by daily activities that were just routine in your pre-cancer life. And, at the same time, you may feel like you are overburdening others by asking for help. That is the furthest thing from the truth.
Asking for, and gracefully receiving, help from your extended family, friends and neighbors gets you some relief you desperately need — and you will find that relationships with true friends and many family members will deepen if you simply let them help you.
When someone offers help, take them up on it
If someone offers to shuttle the kids to and from activities, or take them for the day or the weekend, just let go and say yes. When others offer to cook dinner or bring over meals, just let go and say yes. If your spouse offers to take over doing the bills or organizing the sports tournament trip, just let go and say yes. Others might not do things the way you would, and maybe you feel guilty about accepting the help, but it will help you recover from treatment side effects that make routine daily activities hard to manage.
When I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, and facing surgery a week later, I was very close with my mother-in-law. In fact, I was wishing so hard that she would come and help me and my husband after the surgery, but I was afraid to ask. Without my asking, she said, “Can I come next Wednesday and stay for 10 days or so?” I was so relieved, I cried and told her how much I had been hoping she would come.
When someone says, “Tell me what I can do to help,” tell them
You will often hear the vague phrase, “If I can do anything to help, just call me,” because most people just don’t know what you need or how to offer their help. So, think about what you need on the spot and just ask — whether it’s walking the dog, taking your spouse out for a break or even helping you choose a cancer wig or hat.
When my mother-in-law came to help me recover from my cancer surgery, I was just about to start chemo, and I was told that I would start losing my hair in about three weeks. When she asked, “What can I do to help?” I said, “Want to come help me pick a wig?” She was thrilled to help me narrow down my options to the best wig, and I was so relieved. For women whose chemotherapy causes them to lose their hair, mothers, daughters, sisters and girlfriends are the perfect cure for that heartache.
When the kids offer care, bask in it
Younger kids may offer to cook you meals, cover you up or fetch some tea, a sweater or a book — and if they do, just receive it and acknowledge their love and care gratefully. You will be encouraging their development of empathy, as well as helping them take control of an often uncontrollable situation.
When my teenage son offered to drive and wait with me to buy a new iPhone for his sister who was turning 21, I was so thankful because I could not drive and stand there by myself. When my son had his entire varsity baseball team create and wear hot pink “Team Na” practice shirts during October, I couldn’t have been more proud.
Try to let go and let others help you, and it will strengthen you and them in so many ways.