Kathy LaTour is a breast cancer survivor, author of The Breast Cancer Companion and co-founder of CURE magazine. While cancer did not take her life, she has given it willingly to educate, empower and enlighten the newly diagnosed and those who care for them.
Having always thought of myself as someone who could handle anything, I learned that I didn’t have to do this on my own. Accepting help was okay
Cancer was the first time I faced the possibility of my own death.
I went into the experience as one of the new, liberated women. I knew I could take care of myself. I had proven it before.
The year before my diagnosis, I had given birth to a premature baby. Once she was declared healthy, raising my daughter was a joyful act of endurance and learning to live without much sleep. Endurance had never been a problem for me. At that time my energy level was twice that of most people, so even when my energy was low, I functioned more than adequately.
Then when she was a year old, I faced cancer. I remember thinking early on in my diagnosis about how I could handle this with my regular “I am woman!” approach. But I found that that wasn’t enough. I needed help for perhaps the first time in my life. “Where will I get the strength?” I remember thinking.
Then I found the answer: everywhere.
Sourcing strength was really a matter of accepting help more than finding it. I received offers of help and support from all the parts of my life: Friends, family, faith. Having always thought of myself as someone who could handle anything, I learned that I didn’t have to do this on my own. Accepting help was okay.
I also needed to think of my husband and the help he needed. I remember telling someone on the phone that we were fine and didn’t need them to bring us meals. When I hung up, my husband said, “Would you call them back and tell them that you don’t need help, but I do?”
Strength flowed to me from everywhere I turned. As I traveled the cancer journey, I found gifts of strength under rocks and behind trees, in the flowers and the bugs and storms. Strength I found was not only something I had inside me that came out, but something that surrounded me that I could breathe in. What I needed to do was allow it to happen, and not see accepting help as a weakness.
At first, I put up a fight. In fact, one friend got really mad at me. She told me that I was denying her the chance to help out, which was something she really wanted to do. Then she reminded me of my own attitude — about how helping those in need of support was so important to me.
In the strength I accepted, I found the power to face death, to stand and face cancer instead of running away. I no longer had to do everything alone to prove that I was capable of running my own life. This was a great gift of cancer.