As a caregiver to my husband, I was super bad at balancing Art’s care, the care of our three kids, and my own self-care.
The problem, in the beginning, was not knowing how others could help. People would say, “If you need anything, let me know,” but I had no idea what “anything” was!
I was trying to use my already stressed-out and stretched-out brain to overcome three things when Art had cancer:
Ideas: I had no idea how people could help.
Emotional: I was too scared and overwhelmed to ask for help and risk rejection.
Mentally: I thought I was supposed to and could manage all of our lives. (One-caregiver-to-rule-them-all kind of thing.)
And this took a toll on Art. He felt guilty for the stress his cancer was causing me. He started not to share when he was scared or in pain because he didn’t want to burden me. I didn’t share my fears with him when I felt overwhelmed because I didn’t want to burden him. Our marriage took a hit during the first two months of his cancer treatment.
So how did our friends and co-workers help keep our marriage intact?
They took charge in their own way. They each unwittingly answered three simple questions and followed a formula. I’m calling this The Formula for Giving A F*ck.
What is the Formula for Giving A F*ck.
The formula includes asking yourself three questions and taking two actions. The three questions are:
1. If I were in their shoes, where would I like the help? What would be easiest for me to let go of?
2. Is this something that I am willing to do because I want to, not because I feel like I have to?
3. How long can I commit to doing this? One time, ten times, until Art is cancer-free?
And the two actions are:
4. Reached out to us and to the people who were organizing help and specifically stated what they were willing to do.
5. They offered help more than once.
What kinds of help did they offer?
· One friend set up rides to get the boys to school and another friend took my daughter to school. (When Art was first diagnosed our kids were in three different schools with no bus service.)
· One friend set up an account with a $50 weekly spending limit for online organic food delivery for 6 months.
· One friend placed a cooler by our front door so we didn’t have to be home (or could pretend we weren’t home) when a meal was dropped off.
Most of the support we received were one-offs. And all these small things mattered. The small things together made this awful experience easier. It took the pressure off of us. Art and I felt freer to let our proverbial hair down. (He didn’t’ have any hair then to let down, but you get my point!)
You may feel that what you offer isn't enough. Your friend with cancer it's looking for you to take over their life, they are looking for a little piece that when added to the other little pieces spells relief! Your little piece makes a difference!
I don't think there is such a thing as cancer-life balance but I do know that with the support of a community, it can not be such a see-saw ride!
What do you think?