Here are a few reasons why folks tend to disappear when you have cancer, and how to ask the people you love for the help you need:
Why People are Afraid to Offer Help
- They don’t want to insult you. In this “cancer warrior” society we live in where cancer patients are supposed to be strong, some people think that offering you help is like telling you that you are weak. Tell them you need emotional support for the ups and the downs alike. Nobody should go through cancer alone.
- They don’t know what you need. Most people will offer to cook for you and that’s about it. They don’t know how to help you unless you tell them what kind of help you need. Ask someone to bring some groceries or to take you to radiation treatments. (They may not even realize you can’t drive right now.) Have a friend set up a community page at Lotsa Helping Hands, where you can list exactly what you need on a calendar and invite friends and family to pick up the slack.
- They think that parenting is your business. Except for the nudge on the playground who’s always barking about your kids climbing up the slide, most parents don’t want to butt into your parenting business. But right now, you can’t do it all, and you could use the help. Ask people to set up carpools for your kids’ activities or to have play-dates when you feel your worst.
- They think they’ll catch cancer. Not really, but some people act that way. Your cancer either scares the bejezus out of them or it brings back sad feelings of someone else who had cancer. You can’t make them step up, but you can tell them that though you understand that it’s hard on them, you’re still you and you still want them in your life.
- They’re afraid they’ll say something stupid. And believe me, someone will. Tell them they don’t have to “fix it” with platitudes or scare you with horror stories. Ask them to instead bring funny stories from the outside world, or celebrity magazines. Those always made me feel better. There was nothing like watching Paris Hilton being released from less time in jail than I’d been in the hospital. Boo-hoo, Paris. Boo-hoo.