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Dear Friend Who Thinks They're Helping

Another attempt to help by my friends only brought more work and stress to our home.
PUBLISHED April 25, 2019
Sarah DeBord was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer at age 34. In the years since, she has turned her diagnosis into a calling, and become an advocate for other young adults diagnosed with colorectal cancer and parents with young families facing cancer. She works as a communications and program manager for the Minneapolis-based Colon Cancer Coalition , volunteers her time with the online patient-led support community COLONTOWN , and blogs about her often adventurous experiences of living with chronic cancer at

I get it dude. I have cancer and you want to help relieve some of my stress. You want to help and take it upon yourself to suggest we hang out at my place. I agree because it means I can stay home and chill on the couch. That's my favorite place to be these days. I thought you might offer to bring some take out over so I don't have to worry about cooking and cleaning up the kitchen, but I assumed wrong when you rang my bell and I opened the door to see you holding a 12-pack.

That's awesome, dude, except I don't really drink that much these days. I've lost my taste for it, and since chemo feels like a bad hangover, I don't want to ever risk making myself feel like crap if I don't have to. My liver also happens to be busy growing some tumors of its own, so I like to cut it some slack. These aren't like the good old days when we could stay up all night drinking and laugh about the fun we used to have. These are the days when I stare at the clock waiting for my next dose of pain meds and try to find any chance I can to just sit down. I can't put into words how exhausting it can be just to stay standing.

Though I appreciate your company, I don't appreciate having to get up and make us something to eat when you ask what's for dinner. I don't appreciate you sitting at my counter while my partner does the dishes, and I don't appreciate you giving me a hard time when I want to go to bed at 9 p.m. because I'm exhausted and my pain meds are really kicking in. Sorry to not be a better host, but who is really helping who here?

After diving into that 12-pack on your own, I was happy to let you crash in my guest room and keep you from the long drive home. But I was annoyed when I walked passed the guest room in the morning and saw an unmade bed with dirty sheets that I would later have to strip and wash. I told myself I'd wait until after my mid-morning nap to take care of it.

After moving past the guest room door and my annoyed thoughts, I let it go as I see you sitting at the counter drinking coffee with my kid who has proudly lined up his collection of Star Destroyers and X-Wing fighters. As he explains each ship to someone who I know has been obsessed with Star Wars since we were kids, I appreciate you letting him think he's the real master of this situation. I also start to feel guilty. Who was I to be so pissed? You just wanted to spend time with me, lift my spirits and try to take my mind off the cancer that was consuming me. I mean, the pain from my bone metastasis reminds me enough as is. I sat down next to you but couldn't bring myself to have a cup of coffee. My tastes buds just aren't there, so I just grabbed some water to hydrate my stiff body.

I enjoyed those few moments before you looked over and started complaining about some petty aspect of your life that you could easily control or change. That's when I was done and I wanted you to leave. You came over because you wanted to help me and all you've done is exhaust me. I got up, walked over to the couch, laid down with my son and snuggled him while he watched cartoons. I think you got the hint as you came up with some place you needed to be. We hugged it out, and you were out the door within minutes, only coming back a few moments later when you realized you left your remaining 12-pack. Don't want to forget the important stuff, man.

I dozed off to the sound of Daniel Tiger's voice and the sight of my partner walking through the living room with the pile of your dirty sheets. Another attempt to help by my friends only brought more work and stress to our home. I don't even know if you realized what happened or understood that this isn't like it used to be. Life will never be like it used to be. You want to offer to help again? Offer up something that will truly make my life easier and won't pile a single extra thought or effort on to our plate. And for crying out loud, next time bring take out and offer to fold some laundry.

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