When I was going through cancer diagnosis and treatment, my friends asked me whether I needed help. Things like grocery shopping or helping me run errands.
My answer was always, “No, I’m okay.”
Of course I really wasn’t okay — far from it.
My friends and I spoke and got together when I felt up to it. But several variables factored in my refusing their help:
I didn’t want to trouble my friends.
I hated depending on others. Still do.
I wanted to appear strong and tough.
Plus I was brought up with a stoic pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps mentality. My extended and nuclear families don’t believe in seeking help for problems. So, not surprisingly, my philosophy turned out the same.
So, here I was, suddenly transplanted in Cancerland, refusing my friends’ offers of help. Here I was, feeding the roots of stubborn independence and isolation. During the time of my life I needed the most help, I would not relent.
I was standing in my own way — all because of damned pride.
I became my own albatross.
Five years later, my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction found me swallowing my pride and seeking help. This time, when friends asked me if they could help, I eagerly accepted. Friends came through for me — from grocery shopping to running errands to bringing me food.
I didn’t even realize that so many people loved me.
And I learned a major life lesson: that good friends want to help an ailing friend. It makes them feel useful and helpful to know they are doing something worthwhile, often in scary medical situations that are out of their control.
So if you are finding yourself on the patient end of things, here are just some things you can do to get the help you need. I’m not suggesting that the following choices are always the right choices for your particular situation.
But overall, here are my take-aways (not listed in any order of importance):
1. You don’t have to say you’re okay when you are not. It’s acceptable to react to medical news any way you see fit.
2. Reach out and ask the right friends for help, even if it’s a small favor like bringing food over.
3. Let friends know the best times to call you, or whether you don’t have energy for callbacks.
4. Phone conversations are a great source of support. Don’t feel bad if you are too tired to talk; it’s okay to allow others just sit and read at your bedside.
5. If you have kids and/or pets, feel free to ask your friends to watch them at times.
6. Practice mindfulness.
When have you sought or not sought out help from your friends? I want to hear from you.
Are there any points that resonate with you?
Are there any points that you would add?