When you are used to doing things for yourself, you might find
it hard to ask for help. It may seem more natural for you to take care of
others than to let others take care of you. But a cancer diagnosis tends to
change roles—at least for a while.
An important part of your recovery is keeping up your
strength and getting the rest your body needs to heal. For that, you’re going
to need the support of trusted friends or family members. You’re going to need
a team. According to the American Cancer Society, having a support team can help you
feel less anxious and depressed and can improve your quality of life as you go
through cancer treatment.
Some cancer survivors suggest that you only tell a few trusted people when you first get your diagnosis. This will give you a chance to get your
thoughts together and will help keep you from getting swamped with phone calls
you don’t feel like taking just yet. When you are ready to share the news with
more people, it may help to choose a “point person” who can call or email
others with updates on your care. You might also consider creating a Web page
that will keep friends informed. It’s easy and free to do that through such
organizations as Caring Bridge.
When building your support team, think about what help means
to you. Do you want someone to take you to your doctor appointments and
treatments? It can be very helpful to have another set of ears when you are
feeling overwhelmed. A supportive person can also help you remember symptoms
you’ve had or questions you want to ask your doctor.
Maybe you want help with daily tasks like cooking, laundry
and paying bills. You may need someone to help with personal care, like washing
your hair or giving you a backrub. And you might want someone who can make you
laugh or just divert your attention from your cancer, if even for a short time.
The following link is geared for women with breast cancer, but the information is relevant to
men and women with all types of cancer.
Chances are you will want all of these things at different
times. Building a team of caregivers means that you won’t have to depend on
just one person. A team of people can take turns with tasks. So think about who
would best fill the roles, then ask them.
The people who care about you are likely feeling helpless
right now. By asking for their help and giving them a specific job to do, you
are actually helping them to feel useful.
Don’t be afraid to be honest about what you want—and what
you don’t want, and let them know when you are tired or need some time alone.
Many people find comfort and encouragement from talking with
others who share their cancer experience. Here's a list of online resources offered by the American Cancer Society.
resource for young women who are facing breast cancer is the Young Survival Coalition.
Allegiance Health has just started Lean on Me, a mentorship
program that matches newly diagnosed patients with someone who has survived
cancer and is willing to lend personal support. For information, call our
Patient Navigator at 517-780-7388. We also offers in-person support groups for
breast cancer (RENEW - 517-789-5693), prostate cancer (Man to Man - 800-227-2345).
Both groups are free and welcome new members at any time.