Thursday, October 30, 2008

Here at the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults we help people every day. Sometimes it is just by listening, other times by grants, or providing materials.

Personally, I am fulfilled in many ways by giving to someone in anyway that I can. The other day I spoke to a woman whose son had recently been diagnosed with cancer and she was feeling as though her life had been turned upside down. Just by listening and providing her with information on organizations that could be of assistance I was uplifted. Even though I did not do much, sometimes it is the little things that can make a difference.

The flip side of giving or being a caregiver is to be a care receiver. This is hard for most people especially those who like to give to other people. I am someone that has always volunteered at church, with youth or for other worthwhile organizations. I am a very independent person and am used to doing things for myself. Accepting help has always been hard for me and I have found asking for help to be additionally challenging.

In the last 18 months, I have often found myself in circumstances when I am in need of help and unable to do things on my own. In June 2007 I had a recurrence of cancer and have since been regularly dealing with the side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and infections. At first, I was determined to face my recurrence all on my own. When people asked what they could do for me, I said that I was fine and asked if they could just pray for me. I know first hand that when someone we care about is sick or going through a hard time we can feel helpless. Helping a sick friend or loved one with tangible things can help the caregiver as well as the person they are helping.

I have had to learn the hard way that I cannot do things all on my own. It does not make me a failure or a weak person to admit that I am not Superwoman and in need of assistance.

I resisted help at first always saying I was fine and did not need anything. Then I started to take people up on some things. Accepting help started slowly and gradually grew. I started accepting meals cooked for me once a week and sometimes when someone offered to do something specific I would accept. I was always grateful when helped, I just felt stressed out that someone was taking time out of their busy lives to do something for me.

I will never forget the first time I got up the nerve to call someone and asked for something. It seems so small and insignificant now, but at the time it was a big deal. It was a simple need – I has run out of toilet paper. On top of feeling the side effects from chemo I hurt my back and was in a lot of pain. I was spending all my time on my couch or bed. I needed to go to the store for several days, but was unable to drive or muster up the energy to leave the house. It seems like a small thing now, but there are a few things that you cannot do without and toilet paper is one of them. I realized that I could not be stubborn about this and had to ask for help. I called a friend that was more than happy to help. Up to that point, I just could not find the courage to call someone up and ask them to go out of their way for me.

I am truly blessed that I have people in my life that are able to pick up the slack, because I know that there are many people affected by cancer who do not have the support system I have. Over the past year I have had people bring me meals, clean my house, buy groceries, pick up prescriptions, repair things around my home, do laundry, run errands and so much more. I call these people my “Angels”. They have truly been sent to me to make my battle with cancer an easier one. As hard as it is to accept that I need help, it is helpful to know that by accepting help I am helping others as well. I have talked to many of my “Angels” about my struggle with accepting help and how hard it is for me to request certain things. I am always assured that if someone did not want to do something or was unable to they would say so. My one friend told me that she is happy every time I ask for something, because she knew that she is helping me with exactly what I need instead of trying to guess to what is helpful.

I have come a long way the past year in accepting help, but still struggle with it everyday and often need reminding that allowing others to give is as important as giving yourself. There are times when we can be caregivers and times when we need to be care recipients. I encourage everyone to give back when they can, but learn to accept help when needed.

Allison
Intake & Resource Coordinator

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