Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guest Post - Oh, how I need relief!

The following was written in a moment of exhaustion and desperation by a dear friend who is going through breast cancer for the 2nd time. She just finished chemo to shrink the mass, which is too deep for biopsy, for surgical removal. 

"First, I know this is ungrateful of me. And yet, I feel this way and have to speak my mind while I’m feeling it. I am exhausted. My judgment is probably very poor. But I’m so tired, I don’t even give a damn. There, see? You see what happens? I’m too tired to even go backspace that away. 

I’m tired. Quit asking me if you can help. Don’t tell me to call you if there is anything you can do. If you don’t mean it, quit saying it. So many people want to tell me that they admire me. Don’t admire me. I don’t need admiration. I need help. I need love. Don’t tell me you love me, either. Unless you are willing to DO. Because love is a verb. An action word. Even my son can tell you that. And don’t think you can DO from your house, you gotta actually leave it. Come over. Help. Physically. More than a phone call. Because at the end of the day, the phone call may make me smile for a moment. But more often than not, it simply uses up my little bit of energy in my attempt to sound more pleasant on the phone. I’d rather have you visit. Come lift some of the burden. Come help with the things I don’t have the ability or energy to do, the things that need doing. 

You see me come to church, you see me smile, you see or hear my positive attitude, so therefore I’m fine. Right? I must not need anything. Right? Wrong. Where are you? Give my kid a ride to mutual. Or to school. Or home from school. Or come help me pack, I’m moving. I know I’m leaving, but I haven’t left yet. I’m here. I am buried in stuff that needs to be done, and don’t have the energy that a normal person has. I can’t do it alone. I admit it. I need you. I need your boxes. I need your able hands and bodies. I need your strong backs and energy. I can’t fold laundry without becoming exhausted. Let alone pack a kitchen. Or disassemble beds. Or clean a litter box. Each task I manage knocks me out for days. I can’t afford to take that long. Are you a friend? Do you love me? Or do you just say these things because they look nice on paper? Or in print? Do you mean it? I’m not sure I believe you. I’m tired. I’m too tired to worry that this might offend someone. I’m too tired to worry that people will think I’m ungrateful. I’m so grateful for those who have helped. Those who have done something to make my burden lighter. 

I’m just telling you, the burden is still there. It is heavier alone than with you, my friend. I need more. And I feel like I have to beg to get it. I’m tired of asking. Someone, someone somewhere has to be listening. Someone, somewhere, has to know that He has no hands but yours. And that I’m pleading for you to come help me. Come do. Don’t ask permission! Just do! I need you. Do I ask too much? Yes, I'm sure I do. I'm a spoiled, rotten brat. And don't deserve anything more than what I'm getting. I'm sure. It must be so. Right? Oh, how I need relief!"

My friend does have people rallying round to get her through her upcoming surgery and move, but it's moment to moment getting through the rough times, and having people planning to help tomorrow often doesn't change the panic and despair of the moment.


Anonymous said...

What a powerful post. You have nothing to apologize for and you speak for many who have been through treatments as well as those whose treatments will never end. I especially love the 'don't admire me' comment. That got in my grill almost as much as the 'you're so strong and/or brave'. Because as we all know, we're only doing what anyone in the same situation would do -- and it's not like there's much choice.

One thing that is difficult to navigate is that having been through BC, I have offered specific help to women in my support group who were subsequently diagnosed with Stage IV disease. We were close-knit and were all too familiar with the insincere offers and empty gestures that you described so eloquently.

But despite several of us who have specifically asked (multiple times) if we could prepare meals, take kids for an afternoon and/or pick-up from school, clean, organize, or simply visit in person -- we've been brushed off and we're at a loss as to what to do next.

Fortunately, these women are responding relatively well to their treatments but while it might appear to the uninitiated that their day-to-day lives have not been compromised as they go out with friends, see shows, attend concerts, etc., their blogs detail the side effects of treatment, the exhaustion, pain, etc. and as such, we've all offered specific help. Unfortunately, it's not possible to simply 'show up' at someone's doorstep or apartment building without being announced, and you wouldn't want to risk showing up at a bad time.

We're really at a loss at this point because we haven't made empty gestures but are being pushed away.

Renn said...

Awesome, truthful post! There are many great lines, but I particularly relate to this one: "you see me smile, you see or hear my positive attitude, so therefore I’m fine. Right? I must not need anything. Right? Wrong." Story of my cancer experience. Thank you for writing so honesty.

It's hard to ask for help. It's even harder to accept help. That's why, I think, we should just DO. Do something. Anything.

Better that we risk feeling rejected by the patient than for the patient to feel abandoned by us.

When I was recovering from BC, a friend who lived across the country called me once a week, without fail, for six months. That was the best gift anyone gave me. Sometimes I didn't want to talk. Sometimes I did. But it was her *consistency* that made me feel less alone.

Kathi said...

Ah, gawd...there should be some already-printed instructions we can hand out or email to people -- or better yet, have someone else hand out or email for us -- as soon as we are diagnosed with cancer. It's just too much to have figure out what we're supposed to do about the cancer itself AND figure out what other people ought to do to help us.

One of the most touching things anyone did for me early on, two days after I got home from surgery to remove half my breast, was simply to leave a bag full of great groceries & a bunch of flowers on my doorstep, with a teeny card to let me know who my benefactor was. The groceries themselves were well chosen, too. The person who left them was the Human Resources Officer where I worked. Her card said she didn't want to presume I was up for a phone call or an impromptu visit, but she just wanted to do something helpful. And she did. Bless her for that. Others could take lessons.

Nancy's Point said...

How's your friend doing now? How are YOU doing?

Asking for help is so hard to do. You'd think one wouldn't even need to ask sometimes, but... People who come through when the going gets rough are real gems.