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If you’re living with breast cancer, you know that keeping up with treatment is a full-time job. In the past, you may have been able to look after your family, work long hours, and keep an active social life. But with advanced breast cancer, you’ll have to make some changes. If you try to do everything on your own, it can increase your stress and interfere with recovery. Your best option? Ask for help!
Asking for help may make you feel less capable and more dependent, but the opposite is true. If you’re able to ask for help, it means you’re self-aware and mindful of your limitations. Once you acknowledge you need help, here are some tips on how to get it.
Let go of the guilt
Asking for help is not a failure of character or an indication that you’re not doing all you can. In this case, it means that you accept the reality of your situation. Many of your friends and loved ones probably want to help but don’t know how. They may be afraid to upset you by seeming pushy. Requesting their assistance can give them a sense of purpose and give you a helping hand.
Decide which things are needs and which things fall into the “would be nice” category. Ask for help with the former and put the latter on ice.
Keep track of your support group
Make a list of everyone who has offered to help, along with everyone whom you’ve asked for assistance. This ensures that you’re not being overly reliant on a few people while failing to include others.
Match the person with the task
When possible, ask people to help with tasks that best fit their capabilities, interests, and schedule. You likely don’t expect a friend to miss work repeatedly to drive your kids to and from school. Your 20-year-old brother may be a disaster for making dinner but he may be perfect for walking the dogs and picking up your prescriptions.
Be specific about what you need
Even the most well-intentioned friend may make vague offers of assistance and fail to follow up. Don’t assume the offer was insincere. Most times, they don’t know what you need or how to provide it. They might be waiting for a specific request from you.
If someone asks what they can do to help, tell them! Be as specific as possible. For example, “Can you please pick up Lauren from ballet class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30 p.m.?” You may also need emotional or physical support on treatment days. Ask them if they’d be willing to spend the night with you on treatment days.
If your best friend offers to take care of the children two evenings a week, don’t assume they know how things work at your house. Let them know the kids typically eat dinner at 7 p.m. and are in bed by 9 p.m. Providing clear and detailed instructions can ease some of their worries and prevent miscommunication or confusion.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Maybe that’s not how you would fold the laundry or cook dinner, but it’s still getting done. What’s most important is that you get the help you need and that your support group knows how much you appreciate it.
Organize your help requests online
Creating a private, online site to organize friends, family, and colleagues can ease some of the awkwardness of directly asking for help. Some cancer support websites like CaringBridge.org make it easy to coordinate activities and manage volunteers. You can use the site to post requests for meals for the family, rides to medical appointments, or visits from a friend.
Lotsa Helping Hands has a calendar to assign meal deliveries and coordinate rides to appointments. The site will also send reminders and help coordinate logistics automatically so nothing falls through the cracks.
You can also set up your own help page on social media platforms, like Facebook.
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