Last night at the book club the question that was raised was, “How hard is it for you to ask for help?”. The response got emotional, someone with a severe shoulder injury cried while explaining that she has to ask strangers for help getting heavy items into her cart at Costco. She isn’t used to her body not functioning like it used to, and the older ladies in the group were quick to sympathize with her. The conversation then turned to how much the majority of people want to help and how good it makes them feel! The military wife of the group provided beautiful examples that she has experienced in many different states.
Most people will admit that when they hear of a family member or dear friend’s cancer diagnosis they first feel a sense of shock, then an overwhelming sense of wanting to do something to help. So let them. Let them help you. You are actually helping them by letting them help you.
Whenever anyone asks me my opinion on what is helpful for someone going through chemotherapy, I always counter the question with “What is your least favorite chore? Do that for them.” I used to have a list of “things I wish I didn’t have to do today” going at all times. When someone would ask what they could do to help, I would hand them the list and ask them to choose one. (My dog and cat were such wonderful company, but caring for them was really hard, so that was always on the list.) I would also have a grocery list on hand in case anyone asked if I needed them to pick anything up for me. I will never forget the kindness of someone dropping off laundry detergent for me, because by not having to go to the grocery store, the laundry actually got done that day. It was either going to the store, or doing the laundry -there wasn’t enough energy for both.
As hard as it was for me to ask and even accept all the help that poured in, it was an energy saver. If I asked someone else to drive my kids home from school, then I could help them with their homework. My high school friends got me a house cleaning service. Another group of friends had meat delivered, and one friend later said how she was afraid it was a stupid idea, but it really helped to have the kind of meat on hand to go right on the grill, making dinner so easy that I didn’t have to think. Making decisions can be so overwhelming when you are not feeling well.
It’s very hard to get used to having very limited energy, and not everyone around you understands and it might need some explaining. I once heard that a practical way to explain it is to show them five objects on the table to represent a unit of energy, and this is all that you have for the whole day. For each activity mentioned, an object is taken away. Do you want to take a shower this morning? There goes one unit. Getting dressed or doing your hair is a totally separate one. Pack the kids’ lunches? There goes another. Choose carefully- or you will be out by lunchtime! With only two more items on the table, it might be time to make choices; either you can visit with a friend or answer your emails. All bets are off if you have a doctor’s appointment scheduled, that would mean absolutely nothing else is going to get done, so take all the objects off the table at once. Keep in mind that it takes energy to decide if it is going to be a crockpot meal or take out night. Sometimes just thinking or making mundane decisions is enough to deplete all of your energy. As an extrovert I would save my energy to be with people, but that to me is healing. Healing is the best use of your energy, whether that is with people, with nature, or with a cup of tea. So protect your energy like it’s your most valuable possession. Peace of mind is so important.
This post was originally posted on Project Life, https://www.projectlifembc.com/blog