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.