A large box full of goodies has arrived on my doorstep. They are frozen meals from a company that claims to be ‘just like homemade’, which is good because at the moment a little homemade comfort is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Radiotherapy is nearly through, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, I’m also beginning to feel some of the side effects like tiredness and wheezy chest. Neither of these things are terrible, but they slow me down. And with my husband currently in the last weeks of his thesis writing (he is glued to his computer with papers scattered all around) it would be too much to ask him for a homemade dinner. Besides, the man is incredible but he cannot cook.
So what do you do when there’s no one to cook, clean, and bring you tea in bed?
[Zsolt can bring tea – he’s good at that. But not everyone has a tea buddy for that bit of comfort.]
I guess there are three things you can do.
One: Do things yourself. This has some benefits like pushing yourself, but I think the drawbacks can potentially outweigh the whole ‘in it to win it’ idea. Back during chemotherapy days I wasn’t against pushing. It was because of pushing that I managed to re-train my legs how to walk after those AC treatments, and it was because of pushing that I was able to attend my book club and writing group. It’s good to push. However the pressure did inevitably build into a wee little break down of spirits. Even if you’re the toughest, strongest, most determined cancer-fighter who ever existed, there will come a time when ‘on your own’ isn’t good enough. That’s when a cup of tea in bed, brewed and delivered by someone who cares, is really the best medicine.
Two: Buy some help. This option only applies if you can afford to buy some help. Today I received six premade meals and three side dishes. My husband and I are not rich (we’re rich with love, but the banks at present won’t accept that as credit). However, with him finishing the last treads of his thesis and me finishing the last stage of radiotherapy, we decided that spending a bit extra on meals that are healthy, premade, and actually quite tasty (a rarity in frozen foods), was worth the extra pennies. Now if I could only convince him that a housecleaner would work wonders . . . but I think that’s a splurge too far.
Three: Ask for help. It’s funny because while this option brings the most incredible results, it’s hard to ask for help. What’s your general response when someone asks: ‘How are you?’
You: ‘Fine, thanks. How are you?’
And everyone goes on with their business. It is generally expected that we suck up our problems rather than pass them on to others. When people started hearing I was diagnoses with breast cancer, they would ask me, “do you need any help?” but that was before chemotherapy had begun. So, by the time chemo actually started, the moment for helpful offers had already passed. It was difficult to contact people (Quick aside: Zsolt’s family are all in Hugary, my family are all in Canada – we are on our own in England while Zsolt pursues his PhD, and while I get treated for breast cancer.) . . . it was difficult to contact people and say, “Please make me food, because I can’t handle this.” Asking for help can be hard.
Which is a shame, because once I became so desperate that I finally asked for help, the results were amazing. People want to help. Organizations are created to help. Charities are run so that we can find HELP. But sometimes we need other people to start the ball rolling, to ask us, “How you doing?” and probe further for a real, honest answer.
I am 100% thankful to all the people who helped me through chemotherapy. And I’m 100% thankful that I’ve learned to get help before a breakdown erupts. Today I felt ill at work but didn’t work on. Instead I came home and got into bed. Cancer taught me that. This week I’m feeling tired, but didn’t keep that to myself. I’ve warned my husband of the change and we ordered meals for the week. Cancer taught me that too. Zsolt knows to come into the room if I’m unwell and ask how I’m doing, maybe bring me a drink. Cancer taught him that.
When this is all over I’d like to give back. There are people out there who need to be asked more often, ‘how are you doing?’ and ‘do you need help?’ There are people who don’t have others who can offer their services (or at least, they think they don’t). There are people out there who I now understand a whole better, a WHOLE lot better, for having been in the same situation. I get the pride. I get the exhaustion. I get the reluctance to raise and hand and say, ‘help me’.
Anyhow. Two more months in England, then three in Hungary to relax and rehabilitate with Zsolt’s family. After that it will be back to Canada, meaning it’ll be a good time to look up ‘meals on wheels’ or a similar organization and start passing forward what others have so kindly given to me: support, attention, healthy meals, and a cup of tea when most needed.