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. Christine Miserandino describes living with Lupus to her friend in The Spoon Theory, found at www.butyoudontlooksick.com and points out how we need to plan our day so that we aren’t overtired or totally depleted. She took spoons from the table to represent all the energy that we have for the whole day. For each activity mentioned, a spoon is taken away. Do you want to take a shower this morning? There goes one spoon. Typing too long? There goes another. With less spoons on the table, it might be time to make choices; either you can make dinner or clean up, probably not both. It makes me think that all bets are off if we have a doctor’s appointment scheduled, that would mean absolutely nothing else is going to get done that day, so we might as well take all of the spoons off the table at once. For me, sometimes just thinking or making mundane decisions is enough to deplete me of all of my energy. She points out that the wisest thing is to always save one of those spoons, you don’t know what the day is going to bring. For our health, we can’t use up all of our 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.
Maura Bivens is quick to share her 11 year experience with Triple Negative metastatic breast cancer. As an inaugural member of LBBC Hear My Voice outreach team, she has been a guest writer for It’s About Time MBC, The Breast Cancer Site, was published in the Reno Gazette, and writes her own blog onthebrinkofpink.com . She has been featured in 7 Magazine and LV Woman and has enjoyed speaking to large crowds such as Astellas, Latin Chamber of Commerce, the National Bowling League, and at the UNLV Ladies Rebel Basketball game. She has been involved in both print and commercial campaigns for Comprehensive Cancer Center of Nevada, Komen local and national, and joined with WWE for a PSA. Having hung up her third degree black belt in taekwondo in exchange for a Peloton obsession, Maura lives in Las Vegas with her husband, 3 kids, and way too many animals. She is considered an “Exceptional Responder”, being No Evidence of Disease status since 2011.