For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not one to ask for help. I’ve always had a desire to do things on my own – and yes, some may say this is a flaw of mine.
I’m a part-time single-mom (remember, I co-parent with their father), with a more than full-time job – throw in all the daily/weekly tasks that need to be done around the house and it’s a lot; but I fend for myself pretty well and try to take care of most things without asking for help, always have. The first of the year this all changed for me. I would need help, I would no longer be the person who could go to the grocery store, take her children to school, make dinner, clean my house, etc, on my own. Being accustomed to being able to take care of those simple tasks, has changed and it’s been one of the most difficult things for me to adjust to .
With the flip of a switch I went from living independently with my children, to having someone in my house most of the time since January 5th. If you have never experienced something like this, it’s difficult to adjust to– it’s why I get upset, it’s why I’m frustrated, it’s sometimes why I cry and even scream (yep, I do all of those things…and you all thought I was positive all the time !). I could go on and on and on about exactly how things have changed, but the top five for me are fairly simple things that are the hardest for me to come to terms with:
- No alone time: As I mentioned above, there has been someone at my house almost every day since January 5th. My mother had to basically move in with me. If I wasn’t in the hospital, I was at home recovering from one of the two surgeries. Then the port was placed and three days after I started chemotherapy. If my mom wasn’t there, friends would offer to stay with me so she could have a break and go home. I was used to having down time after the children went to sleep or on the days when they’re with their dad, being able to putts around and do my own thing. Instantaneously I went from one extreme to the other, with no in between. I felt as if my life was taken away from me – I was now dependent upon someone to help me do the majority of things – getting in and out of bed, up and out of a chair…you name it, I needed help with it.
I need my space. I always have. This has been almost the hardest thing I’ve had to adjust to. As time has gone on my parents are more willing to let me have this time when I don’t have the children, but there’s always the “what if this happens” or “what if that happens” that comes in to play with everything I’ve undergone. I have several people I can call to help me and/or stay with me if I’d need something at a moment’s notice. Although everyone is usually quiet and tries to keep to themselves, they’re still there…sitting at the kitchen table behind the chair I sit in, down the hall taking care of something or outside doing whatever might need to be done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful and thankful I have support and a team in place to help…it’s just hard to handle at times and is a reminder of everything I’m going through.
2. The realization that you can’t just go grab a gallon of milk: The neighborhood I live in has a Schnuck’s at one end and a Dierberg’s at the other…my grocery stores are easily accessible. Although I’m not a huge fan of grocery shopping (kinda weird since my family owns grocery stores), I began to miss it. The simplicity of going to literally grab the gallon of milk I’d forgotten or the box of cereal we’d run out of wasn’t an option. I was simply unable to walk around a grocery store to get the things I needed.
The amount of energy it takes for me to do the simplest things is amazing – in the beginning, walking from the car to the store itself wiped me out. Then I graduated to hanging on to the shopping cart for dear life (literally, I was that lady in the store that was using the cart as a walker), to eventually making it through the store like anyone else would. Only catch…I needed someone to help me put the groceries in the car and take them out of the car. Within the last week or two, I’ve been cleared and don’t have the weight restrictions I once did and on my “good days” can go to the store to pick things up…it’s refreshing when I’m able to do so.
3. The ability to drive: In a two month time period I could count on one hand the amount of times I’d driven my car. Most days if someone is at my house, they still drive and I ride. I love to drive my car…it’s my time to decompress, crank the radio up and roll the windows down for a breath of fresh air. It was my time between work and school pick up to sing along to the radio – Yes, I dance in the car and really belt the songs out when it’s one of my favorites. Olivia actually made the comment the other day – “Mom, did you know that you sang every song on the way to G and Poppy’s”. Yes dear, I did..mommy likes to sing to the radio, loudly.
I missed my XM radio…I missed everything the car symbolized to me – freedom and independence. As time has passed and I can adjust to my new-found “schedule” I am able to spend more time behind the wheel – more times than not it’s the 7-10 days before the next treatment. But I’ll be honest, depending on the day, I may just be too darn tired to even think about it. I’m to the point that I will tell friends if I can’t make the drive and they’ll swing by and pick me up, but more times than not I’d prefer to be the driver.
4. Household tasks – laundry, cooking and cleaning: Everyone has their own way of doing things, it doesn’t mean one way is better than the other, it’s simply what we prefer. I prefer to do things one way, whomever is staying with me may prefer to do things another way. I use one cleaning product, they use another. I put something in this spot, they put it in a place they’ll remember where it is. They follow recipes exactly, I like to wing it.
I’m trying my best to not let these little things bother me, but they do. They bother me because I’m not able to do them myself. It’s a reminder that I need help doing things that I once was able to get accomplished on a Saturday morning between feeding the kids breakfast and taking Olivia to dance class. I can no longer do these things on most days…because I’m tired or sick, or both. When I have my good days, I do the laundry and cook the meals…I enjoy doing this, I want to do these things.
The cleaning I’m still not able to manage for one reason or another…I’m still sore from time to time from surgery and I need to be cautious because of my immune system being down. All other things mentioned above, are welcome tasks when I feel like it.
5. Accepting help: This is a MAJOR challenge for me – MAJOR. When people first found out about my diagnosis they’d ask “what can I do, I want to help?” My response was always, “I really can’t think of anything, I’m fine, but if I think of anything I’ll let you know” – which wasn’t true, I had no intention of letting anyone know that I might need a meal, that a play date for one of the children would be great, and so forth. I was going to do this on my own, my parents and I had this covered….nothing could be further from the truth.
Guess what, I soon found out that the old mentality I had of not asking for help would soon change after treatment #1. I was going to need help. I needed to come up with a list of things that could really be beneficial to us. Gradually I let people start bringing meals over – my appetite isn’t the greatest, so they bring “kid friendly” meals, one less thing my mom or I have to worry about. Most recently, I’ve started planning after school play dates for Olivia.
I have never been in a position where things like this were needed in the past. I saw it as being “weak”…yes, I know how that sounds but it’s the truth, it’s what I thought. What I didn’t understand at that time is that our friends and family wanted to help, this was not only good for me, but it has allowed people to feel like they are a part of this process too. No one wants to see anyone go through something like this and when they don’t know how to help, these are the ways in which they’re able to make a difference. If you have a loved one/friend in a similar situation, keep asking, they’ll eventually take you up on your offer.
What I’m accustomed to, no longer exists. I’ve had to find a new sense of normalcy and adjust to what that looks like. Along the way I’ve accepted that I need help. For the time being, this is my new normal whether I like it or not. Does it suck? Parts of it do. Does it become easier? Yes. Will it last forever? No. That is the one thing I keep reminding myself…I will get back to the way I once was. I tell myself this over and over…some times my thick skull doesn’t like to listen though. Right now, I take the good days and embrace the things my old self would have done, and on the other days I use the energy I have doing the things the matter, the things I want to be doing, instead of doing the things that “need” to be done.