Less than a year ago my whole world, was turned upside down. Actually our world was turned upside down.
I’d been dealing with a rare cancer on my lower leg since 2000. Eight years ago the cancer stopped coming back and I thought I was out of the woods. Then last Spring we found out a different kind of cancer had invaded my leg, and at that point I decide not to take any more chances – I went for amputation. That was last May.
At the time I thought this would be a short-lived problem, and I’d be up walking around, without any assistance, in a few months. Little did I realize the extent of the challenges facing me. And it wasn’t just me, it was Marian, too.
That’s the one thing I learned early on in my 15 year battle with cancer, the caregiver, if there is one, often needs as much help and support as the “patient”.
We had always been able to take care of ourselves. We had no idea of what kind of help we’d need. When? How much? It never even dawned on me I’d be going from the one who usually helps others, to the one who needed help.
Our culture seems so focused on self-reliance that it’s hard to ask for help, and even harder to receive it. It feels like a weakness, and our first impulse is to reject and say that’s OK, I can do it myself. And it’s much harder for men. Just ask Marian.
Marian was getting overwhelmed and practiced some “Tough Love” – she told me she needed help with taking me to the V.A. 3-4 times a week.
It was difficult for me to ask friends for rides. Over the years I had been doing this for others, and I didn’t mind at all. But asking was difficult. I felt embarrassed to admit I couldn’t take care of myself to my friends. Looking back it was so dumb to think that way… but I did.
We were always up front about what was going on, medically. We never tried to hide it. How could we? It was fairly obvious.
We don’t recall asking for help, at first it was just there. First from the rabbis and Wendy, and then from our Chavurah and friends outside Shir Tikvah.
And then we began getting contacted by other Shir Tikvah members. Some brought us meals, some brought flowers, some stayed for dinner. When people stayed to share a meal with us it was so much more fun and interesting; it was a chance to have people to talk and laugh with over to our home. Especially for me, it was a chance to get together with friends.
For others it was a phone call or quick visit. There were offers for transportation or even a break from caregiving. Marian got help in the yard and garden with weeding and planting, too.
We were aware of the Caring Committee at Shir Tikvah. Our Chavurah had worked together to make soup to be placed in the S.T. freezer. Knowing the Caring Committee is available, and actually asking for help are two very separate issues.
We also learned how to ask for help. It wasn’t easy, for me, especially, but I did. I sure didn’t want Marian overwhelmed. And she was already overwhelmed with the surgery and rehab, and now I would be at home.
Granted, we needed a lot of help, but, it’s also easy to ask for a little. The people who are part of the caring committee want to help. It’s a mitzvah.
In its common usage, a mitzvah is a good deed. So, while it’s obvious the members of the Caring Committee do good deeds by helping… you’re also doing a mitzvah by letting someone help you, especially if it’s to take burdens away from you or your caregiver.
It really meant a lot to both Marian and me.
Now maybe you’re more of a private person, and don’t want everyone to know your business, or worry it will be all over Shir Tikvah?
Talk to Jill or Wendy, and let them know that. They can take care of that part, and you’ll still get some friendly, compassionate support and love from members of the Caring Committee.
We had so much help at times we were overwhelmed, but we’re not complaining. We were fortunate to have many communities to draw from, including my past work-mates, our circle of friends outside Shir Tikvah, and our neighbors.
What’s important to remember…it’s not just you, the person who is sick, down, or struggling with a disability, it’s also the caregivers at home – often their struggles are hidden. They need to stay strong to help you.
Please, do a mitzvah, let someone else feel good, too. Contact the Caring Committee.
Happy Valentine’s Day – Shabbat Shalom