Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I had an extremely excruciating experience recently. It took hours to sort out why I had such an intense response to it.

Someone(s) (unwittingly) patronized me. They treated me like I'm an invalid. They treated me like my body isn't strong enough to participate in normal activity. They treated me like they are strong and I am frail.

I wanted to curse and swear. I wanted to, so badly. Fortunately God kept my mouth shut. Mostly. I did say, "I used to be a landscaper, I'm FINE." And I did say, "I'm not dying yet."

I know they were trying to help but that didn’t make it un-painful.

My only real limitation right now is not having very much energy. I'm not made of glass, or porcelain; I'm not going to snap in half or shatter into a thousand pieces.

My body is a normal body. The only thing that makes it qualitatively different than yours (most of yours) is that there are some cancerous lymph nodes and implants in it. It's not like my whole body has been infiltrated by cancer yet. It’s not like there’s cancer in my arm or leg muscles and they’ve turned to mush.

What would be really helpful is if people would ask what I can/can’t do instead of assuming that I can't handle something.

It seems safe to guess that many other people with health challenges or age challenges or any other kind of challenges might have similar feelings. That’s why I’m posting this.

If you want to help someone who you think may need help, ask them if they want or need the help first. Don't assume.

And, one other comment which is dangerous to make, but which I’m going to make anyway: Be careful of your motives for helping. If you just want to help, that’s awesome, offer anytime. But I personally get really freaked out when I can tell someone wants to smother me with “help” because of their own needs-whether it be because they are so emotionally needy, because they have an unfulfilled hero complex, or because they need to be constantly mothering someone etc.

I’m not saying I don’t want help, or that I’ll never need help. There have been many times in this process when I’ve needed help, been very grateful for help, or have even (gasp) asked for help... : ) In fact, I just asked for help with something today.

One of my most difficult memories from my chemo experience is from after my first chemo, when I desperately needed help. The pre/post chemo meds weren’t adjusted yet and I basically sat/laid on my parents’ sofa completely out of my mind and confused for three or four days. If I hadn’t had my family’s help I would have been terrified because I couldn’t read a complete sentence or remember which (crucial) post chemo meds I was supposed to be taking when. 

It has taken a while to really understand that most people are honored to help and get a great deal of joy from helping, and I still have to remind myself of that. It’s been hard to learn that if I don’t let someone help, I’m depriving them of that joy. It has also been hard to learn how to set healthy boundaries for myself and other people so my introverted self doesn’t go crazy. There have been many hard aspects of this whole helping thing.

But it has the potential to be such an incredible blessing too... I've been so thankful for my support system and all of the help I have had. It has been amazing.

Bottom line: Be available, be supportive, and definitely be praying, but be sensitive to, and respectful of, the need for independence as well.

1 comment:

  1. Martha-
    Just so you know- I truly believe you are WAY stronger then me :-)
    Love you!