Here is how it starts right after diagnosis: DENIAL
Friend: ‘Oh my Gosh Grace, I canNOT believe you have cancer! What can I do for you?’
Me: ‘You are too kind, I am totally fine, no need for any help, but thank you SOOO much.’
In a few weeks you move on to this: TREPIDATIOUS ACCEPTANCE
Friend: ‘Grace, I would love to help you in some way, can I bring you a meal?’
Me: ‘Well actually, a meal would be really helpful, I have a meal train website, I will forward it to you and if it works for you, maybe you can sign up for a meal time. Thank you SO much for even asking.’
Next comes: TOTAL ACCEPTANCE
Friend: ‘Grace I wish there was something I could do to help you?’
Me: ‘I am so glad you offered! I need bananas and whole wheat bread and Cecilia needs a ride to ballet on Tuesday. Can you make those two things happen? Thanks!’
Next incarnation: BLATANT BEGGING
Neighbor I met 5 minutes ago: ‘It’s been so nice to meet you, I look forward to seeing you on the block.’
Me: ‘Hey I know we just met, but can you let my dogs out every day next week around noon? Oh you are busy at noon? Ok well then whenever you have a free 20 minutes will work. Here’s a key. Great, thx.’
Final stage: TIRED OF FEELING LIKE A MARTYR AND ASK FOR NOTHING WHEN REALLY, YOU STILL NEED A SHIT-TON OF HELP
Family member: ‘I am planning on coming over to help you after work Wednesday.’
Me: ‘Don’t bother. I am fine. (whispers to myself: dear sweet baby jesus, I need so much help as I don’t have use of my arms and I am so tired of being needy so I will just suffer in my own private hell).’
This final stage is where I find myself now. I have been told by my surgeon that I am not to lift anything over 10lbs for 6 weeks. This was a hard and fast rule. Guess how many times I lifted my 36lb toddler today? I am going to approximate 12. I have truthfully no other option. If I want him in or out of his car seat, I have to lift him as he is a very stubborn 3 year old who doesn’t give AF about my illness.
What do I do when I am at a park and one of my older children is hanging from a high bar and screaming to be helped down? I have about 20 blue eyed, blond haired, well dressed moms staring at me with their finger on the DCFS speed dial. I have no choice but to run over to said kid and lift them down.
My husband has to work almost every Saturday so I am stuck with all three kids for the entire day. No human in their right mind wants to help me through this endless day without being paid. I sure as hell wouldn’t volunteer if I was on the other side of the equation.
Here is the other part of the Trickle Down Effect-
When I ask for help, I am inevitably inconveniencing that person. They have to cancel something, move around existing plans, just to spend their valuable time watching my kids or doing laundry or some other odious task at my house.
Consider this; the person I asked for help who had to move around their plans, inevitably inconvenienced the person they had plans with. And what about the plans this third tier person had that now have to be modified and so on and so forth.
When I ask for assistance from someone and they are able to help me, it very well could be sending ripples way down the line. Knowing this is quite possibly the case is more than I am comfortable asking at this point. Maybe in the height of chemo or after my mastectomy. Even though I am only 10 days out from a major surgery right now, my neediness has become cumbersome. Asking for, or accepting these requests feels greedy.
There has to be a statute of limitations on help. I am even bored with myself. This boo-hoo cancer routine is so summer 2016. So much so that I would rather risk whatever could happen if I lift a 36lb human repeatedly or stay up past when my body says, ‘we are DONE’ just to avoid the stale ‘can someone help me?’ routine.
The worst byproduct of both of these trickle down effects is guilt. As a lapsed Catholic schoolgirl, I know guilt.
I have started to feel really guilty for all of the time, work and attention I have required from people since April. The apex of this is the fact that my illness prevented my immediate family from being able to fly down to Florida for my grandmother’s funeral this weekend. Talk about feeling like a life-sucking asshole.
The only consolation I can think of to try is to pay it forward on behalf of everyone who has sacrificed something in order to help me this year. Find a way to put a whole ton of good karma back out into the universe.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to start the karma train today as I am far too busy feeling sorry for myself.