#9 Get Help (and accept offers of help)
This is a big one and for multiple reasons. This could actually be number 1 if I were giving these any sort of numerical value. This encompasses both a range of pre-cancer all the way through to post-cancer and beyond. It’s easy to let our ego get in our way and it will keep us from asking for help. I think that’s why most (or at least myself) don’t go to the doctor to begin with. It’s a sign of weakness. We’re weak, we’re sick, we’re in a position of vulnerability and it pains us to ask for help. There’s also the mental and emotional aspect of maybe asking for help and seeing a therapist. This again implies a weakness or something akin to a fragility of our ego that we can’t deal with things on our own.
Even if I’m not just talking about doctors and mental health but just the simple fact of asking friends for help. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t want to accept any help of any kind. I’d be the tough one that gutted it out by himself. I could still do everything that I had before and nothing was going to stop me from being able to continue to do so. Well, cancer had other ideas about my strength and opened my mind to what it meant to ask for help. It also opened my mind in terms of actually being able to accept help and it not negatively affect my already shattered ego.
I always had the idea that I could deal with anything and that my body would magically heal itself. Like a strained muscle, if I just gave it enough time it would heal and I’d be good as new in a few days. I’d not had anything worse than a cold in the past ten years. I hadn’t needed antibiotics for probably twenty years or more. My body was a healing machine. I got in the habit of thinking that it would all just pass. All my body needed was just a little time and I’d be good as new.
When my first signs of cancer started to present themselves, I kept thinking that these signs or symptoms were individual responses to something, and not all related. I thought my spleen was hurting because I had pulled a muscle. I thought my fatigue was from working two jobs. I thought my weight loss was from too much activity spread across those two jobs. The only thing I couldn’t explain was the growing cyst on my Adam’s apple but again, I thought it would go away just like anything else. It wasn’t until my wife and mom urgently asked me to make a doctor’s appointment that I finally did.
That was the start of my physical problems. Prior to that was the start of my mental problems. I’m not going to lie, Covid nearly broke me. Both mentally and financially. Had I not stepped up and gotten a second job, I think we would have made it through Covid. Personal training and the gym took a big hit when they shut things down. I say I “broke down” and started to see a therapist because I knew my mental health was suffering. I wish I had started seeing a therapist before I reached the point of breaking. I could have headed off some of the anger and frustration that I felt like I took out on undeserving individuals. I’m thankful for my friends and clients that stuck with me through that time because it was extremely tough.
While I talk about our physical and mental well being and seeking professional help from doctors and therapists, there’s also the help we receive from friends and family. During some of my chemo days I couldn’t move things around in the garage, I couldn’t lift boxes of decorations. Hell, there were long stints where I wasn’t at home. I’ve spent almost three months in the hospital across the past 7 months. I haven’t been home, and that makes doing things very difficult. There were just some normal functions that were temporarily unavailable to me, so I wasn’t much help to my wife when it came to doing some household chores.
We reached out to neighbors and friends to help us get certain things done. Friends and neighbors stepped up and gave us all the help we needed and more. It was painful to ask to help but people were beyond happy to help. It shows that humanity takes care of its own. People want to help when they see their friends (or even strangers) in trouble. We’re all in this together despite sometimes feeling alone. A disease like cancer can make us think we’re alone but we’re not. We’ve received help from some of the most unlikely places and there’s no way we’ll be able to repay the kindness. All we’ll be able to do is pay it forward at some point.
In certain instances, help was given when we didn’t even ask for it. That is when it comes down to being able to freely accept help. It is easy to think that, “no, we can do this.” But often the reality of the situation is that we can’t do this on our own. The help is greatly appreciated and sometimes other people know what you need when you don’t. Let them help. In hindsight the help we received was exactly what we needed but we didn’t know it. It also goes both ways. The person helping you will feel good about doing something for somebody who needs it and it certainly will go a long way towards making things easier for you.
Help isn’t a nasty four letter word. Asking for help or receiving help isn’t a sign of weakness. Don’t let it be a blow to ego. Instead, think of it as a blessing. You are getting something you need or something that will make life easier. You have friends, family, or even pure strangers that want to help you. That says a lot about who you are and it says a lot about those who are taking time out of their day to think about you and help provide for you. There’s something special about a shared sense of happiness. Making someone else feel a bit better will be the key to making yourself feel better. Easing the burden of suffering from others will always be a true sign of humanity. We’re in this together.
I implore you, get help. And accept that help. Start by going to the doctor routinely and ask that they do regular blood work. Get a full work up at least once a year. From hormones to cell count to cholesterol. Get it all done. Next, get regular check ups in with a therapist. Just like you take your car in to get the oil changed and do regular tune ups, see a professional to get regular check ups. You might not need anything but sometimes having a neutral party to talk to allows us to vocalize things that we might not mention to anyone else. This can open doors that allow us to be better, in more aspects than one. Last, ask your friends for help. Even if it’s something as simple as moving a desk from downstairs to upstairs. Friends are there for you. All the time. Asking for help from friends and family is to be part of a group, part of a clan. These people care for one another and the goal is to make life easier for everybody. Plus, it will just make everybody involved feel a bit of happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happy?