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After a Cancer Diagnosis, Seven Tips to Make Asking for Help Easier

Do you ever wonder why it’s so darn hard to ask for help when you need it? And I’m not just talking about in Cancer Land. Many of us never like to ask for help for one reason or another. We prefer to think we can tackle it all and not just tackle whatever it is, but excel at it too. Asking for help makes us feel less capable, less independent, or less something. Why this is I’m not entirely sure.

For example, who isn’t familiar with the male stereotype of never wanting to ask for directions. ‘Cuz, asking for directions makes you less manly…there’s no logic to that one. And we women are no better. We are constantly running around trying to do it all while pretending there’s nothing to it.

Who are/were we kidding?

When you’re facing cancer treatment, it’s pretty much imperative that you ask for help with at least some things. It might very well still be hard to ask for help, but you will need to be prepared to do so anyway.

Treating cancer is a full-time job (from hell no less), so if you’re already working, running a household, raising kids or all of the above, it is literally like adding another job into the equation. You will probably not have the energy to do them all effectively. The sooner you come to terms with this reality the better.

Of course, some cancer patients are on their own, but hopefully there’s a family member, friend or two, a church or a community organization you can call on for at least some assistance some of the time.

When dealing with cancer treatment (and I will add, for some time after as well), you have to put yourself first. And for those with metastatic disease, asking for help might have to be something you’ll need to do from here on out. And that is okay.

So how do you go about doing this?

1.  Ditch the guilt. This time it is about putting YOUR needs first.    

2.  Allow your friends and loved ones to pitch in more. They want to help anyway and allowing them to do so, makes them feel better about a scary situation.

3.  If you’ve never been a list person (I am not), this might be a good time to re-think that and start making some lists. People, even loved ones, need specific things to do and possibly specific directions on how to do them, where to go and/or where to find certain things. Lists can make life easier for everyone. Plus, no one has to wake you when you’re resting to ask where you ‘hide’ the laundry detergent or what grocery store you usually go to.

4.  Going along with the above, don’t expect your loved ones to do things exactly like you do them. This reminds me of when Dear Hubby would take over baby care way back when. I’d get nervous when he didn’t do things like me. But his ways worked too. Not one of our dear babies was ever dropped, went unfed or cried too long while in his care either. Other people are more than capable to take over tasks you have always done. Let them.

5.  Prioritize. Some things need to get done. You can let the other stuff slide and it’s amazing how this turns out to be okay and for how long too.

6.  A wonderful tip a reader shared was this one:  “What was missing for me was a ‘point’ person. When I needed help, that person would find the right person to make it happen. Making requests of lots of people just is not easy for most of us, so having one really good and trusted friend to make things happen would be my suggestion.” Excellent tip. Thank you, Betty.

7.  Remember, there is no shame whatsoever in asking for help. Needing help is not a sign of poor character, weakness or whatever. Sometimes asking for assistance is a sign of strength. A truly strong person knows when help is needed to carry the load.

Not asking for help during cancer treatment can increase your stress, make it harder for you to rest and/or heal at a time when you need less of the first and more of the latter. Besides, there are no gold stars for doing it all. There never were.

So go ahead, ask for help. It’s perfectly okay for you to do so, in fact, it’s sometimes necessary.

Do you find it hard to ask for help?

What tips would you add?

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7 Tips to Make Asking for Help Easier After a #Cancer Diagnosis #breastcancer

Beth L. Gainer

Saturday 21st of March 2015

Nancy, I think your list is excellent. I love all the items, but I'm partial to No. 1 -- the putting yourself first is so important. I didn't learn to put my needs first until cancer. That's a really sad thing: it took cancer for me to realize that I was worth putting first. But at least I realized it.

I came from a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of family, so it's no wonder I was so hesitant in seeking out help. I'm glad I have such a great support system of help in place now.

Thank you for writing this post.


Sunday 22nd of March 2015

Beth, I think many of us struggle with putting ourselves first. I'm glad you have a great support system in place now too. As do I, and you are part of it. Thank you for sharing.


Friday 20th of March 2015

I just explained to a recently diagnosed woman the other day that now is the time to learn to be selfish. It is hard when you are used to being the one taking care of everyone else, but if you try to keep up with that AND take care of your cancer treatment - you will wear yourself out! Great advice.


Friday 20th of March 2015

Mandi. You are so right. Putting yourself at the top of the list is so important, and it's sometimes hard for us to do for the reasons you said and more. Be sure to keep yourself right up there on the top of your 'to take of' list. Thanks for commenting.

Claudia Schmidt

Thursday 19th of March 2015

I'm especially with you on #5 - things can just kind of fall apart a little, for the duration of treatments --- if the house is messy no one else is going to judge you! And the point person is also a wonderful idea as there's just so many things to juggle during the whole process. Wonderful lists -- I AM a list person, and I appreciate this one :) !


Friday 20th of March 2015

Claudia, Prioritizing is very important, so I agree about #5. A person can only juggle so much. I had an idea that you might be a list person, Claudia. Thank you for reading and sharing. Glad you appreciate my list.


Tuesday 17th of March 2015

Nancy, your post came in the right time! I am about to seek help about my grief. Now that cancer is part of my life, I need to make some room for it (because it isn't going anywhere, if you know what I mean).

I was dealing with other emotional issues prior to cancer and they were heavy on me. But ever since cancer, everything I used to feel is now more intense! For example, I lost my grandmother in 1998 (she raised me), but now I find myself crying over her death more often than ever before (cancer). This is a sign that I need to seek help.

I don't think my problem is not wanting to ask for help. My problem has to do with lack of faith.

I stop myself from going to see a therapist because I suspect it wouldn't work. Or I stop myself from asking a family member for help, because I suspect she would say no...or it wouldn't meet my expectations. I want to do it all and at times, it becomes overwhelming. So why not ask for help? It's not like I have something to prove. I guess in a way it feels good to "be able to" do things yourself. In my case it's a reminder that I can still be self sufficient. That I am still strong. This same idea of feeling self sufficient helped me during my cancer treatments. However, I've been feeling tired for some time now. I need a break.


Wednesday 18th of March 2015

Rebecca, I know what you mean about making room for your grief and I'm glad to hear that you are going to seek out some help. A cancer diagnosis can make many emotions resurface and it seems logical to me that grieving for your grandmother has become more intense again because you miss that source of comfort and support during such a stressful time in your life. Maybe you do need a break and there is no need to prove anything, or do everything on your own IMO. No one can do it all over the long haul anyway. My best to you. Thank you for sharing.

Scott Johnson

Tuesday 17th of March 2015

Thanks Nancy, very timely for me as my last treatment and review come up this month. Among the many glitches I've experienced in "care" was being told by the doctor that my initial question about whether my cardiologist had approved my chemo had caused the navigator to "waste time" on me that could have better used on someone else. From there I've stopped asking questions. That question was finally answered after a few months by having someone hack into my vacationing doctor's files. Anyway, as time has gone on and the list of un-helpers has multiplied it's become clear there's no one in the system that's of any use to me. And really, for my own dignity I need to let these people go. So, since there's no other source of cancer care in the socialized medical system here my daughter has volunteered to be my advocate which is really cool except I feel like the bastards have won--guy thing I guess:-) It sounds bad but I'm learning that people who think they can take pieces of me in consideration for the "help" they are paid to do aren't really going to be helpful anyway.


Wednesday 18th of March 2015

Scott, I'm sorry you feel there is no one in the system that's of any use to you. How frustrating. Thank goodness your daughter has come forward and will be your advocate. Hope things improve for you. Thank you for reading and sharing.

Diana Kuster

Wednesday 18th of March 2015

I am so glad that your daughter has volunteered to advocate for and with you. There are not any "stupid" questions and you have a right to ask questions over and over until you are given the answers that help you to understand regardless of the stage or development of your treatment plan. Before, during and after treatment. When we are diagnosed with any form of cancer it is helpful to write down or type our questions to our doctors and/or caregivers and it is appropriate to ask for the answers in a written format back to you. We have a right to ask for second and third opinions on our treatment plans especially because there are many options not just one way to the final destination of treatment or cure. No one wasted any time on you and all of the time they shared with you..... you were entitled to....whether the socialized medical system or the private medical system. We still live in a democracy and you have a right to your freedom of speech and you also have a patients bill of rights that should be adhered to at all times. Do not give up! You are worth it!!!!!

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