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From a Patient With Cancer: Thanks for Not Helping

BY Janet Leff
PUBLISHED July 12, 2016
Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
Too much help may just help me deteriorate faster than necessary. Thank you for caring so much, and for your willingness to help me through this cancer journey. Here is something that can help me a lot. PLEASE let me pick things up and carry things, when I feel able; it keeps the muscles active! Of course I need to keep very honest with myself on any given day as to how I am feeling and functioning. Living with “chronic cancer” is taking some adjustments.

March marked 14 years since my diagnosis and mastectomy. In 2005, there were five tumors on my spine and two on my hip. Radiation dealt with this. Then in January 2012, the scans showed metastases in my lungs, bones and liver. Now four years later I am hoping for a reassessment of all the tumor, nodules and lesions, looking at if they have disappeared and if they are dead, asleep or growing? As a friend said, “You need an audit.”

There are days when I feel functional enough to possibly get some part-time work, others when I think I must be on the final decline. It is so unpredictable. My goal is to stay as functional as I can for as long as I can. Meanwhile, I look on what used to be normal activities as my aerobics for the day. I’m now looking at all the muscles that get moved by emptying the dishwasher, doing laundry, folding, putting it away and taking the garbage out. These all help me stay flexible. Granted, the time to do some of this is a lot longer than it used to be. So I need to keep an ongoing list of things I know I cannot or should not be doing. When good friends come over, I am ready to ask them to do certain things.

Acceptance is such an important part of staying as independent as I can. When I took the sheets off the bed and ran them through the laundry, I was OK. It was later when I needed to remake the bed that it was very hard. It took two hours before there was the energy to make the bed, but I felt so good at being able to do this all in the same day! Maybe I also need to buy another set of sheets as my old ones don’t fit these new mattresses! Then I could make the bed while still feeling OK!

As a retired social worker and addiction counselor, it is frequently hard, weird and confusing being the patient. I can still happily live alone and do most things. It may take a week to do an hour’s job, and I do get behind, especially with house work, but then I need to ask for some help, and be specific. Now would be a good time to start my list of little and big things I need help with doing, lifting or just straightening up.
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