Asking for Support and Receiving it




Asking for Support
Challenges and Myths
   ←  Helping friends to help you



          Giving is Receiving -
          Receiving is Giving

Giving and receiving is a critical part of healing.

Even though your needs are greater when you have cancer, it can be hard to ask for help to meet those needs. Dean Ornish, MD wrote, "One of the most important aspects of wellness is not technology, or supplements, or even medicine. It’s friends. "We-ness" is a part of all of our lives, so much a part that we sometimes take for granted just how good connecting with other people feels"
When you are ill with cancer it is essential that you allow yourself to be supported and that you reach out for help.
Developing a solid support system means surrounding yourself with friends or family members who care about you and want what’s best for you. If you need comforting in the midst of pain, someone’s hand will be there to grab onto, to be a lifeline. It is crucial to surround yourself with supportive people to help you through the tough times and also celebrate the joyous occasions with you.
To get the help you need, think about turning to:
  • Family and friends
  • Others who also have cancer
  • Colleagues and neighbours
  • People you meet in support groups
  • People from your spiritual or religious community
  • Health care providers
  • Caregivers
  • Councelling
  • Cancer Mentors
  • Support Groups
  • Spiritual Support
  • Your local hospice
Surprisingly, most of us better at giving and receiving.           "We have so many "underachievers" that we need a new diagnosis - RDD - Receiving Deficit Disorder.
There is no simple fix for RDD. To overcome Rdd, you have to reexamine your beliefs about being entitled of love and support" (Dr Bernie Siegel). You have to practice accepting even small gestures of love that come you way. You may be surprised at how abundant these are once you begin to notice and welcome them. Over time, receiving love and support     become a new habit of life.
Most of us  are very resistant to the idea to asking for help. We find it embarrassing or humiliating and we hate the feeling of being out of control or indebted to others. Quite often these feelings are rooted in a fear of intimacy  or low self -esteem: we might consider ourselves as unworthy of the time and attention of others, feeling that we must pay back anything that is given to us, or we might feel shame appearing vulnerable emotionally or physically.
Very often, providing the opportunity for others to give is -      far from a burden - it is a gift for them. Asking for Help Creates an Atmosphere of Empowerment. No one needs          to face cancer alone. When people with cancer seek and receive help from others, they often find it easier to cope.

Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you think that asking for help is a sign of weakness?
Or perhaps you do not want to let others know that some            things are hard for you to do? Are you the kind of person            for whom it is important to be seen as strong, reliable and independent?

One of the most upsetting aspects of being ill is that you will have times when you don't feel strong, when you are not able to do everything yourself. At these times, asking for help of others is probably your best way forward but for many people this is not easy as it sounds. Even though you may not be used to depending on others, needing help is not a weakness.

While you have conventional medical treatment, don't             make the mistake of expecting yourself to do everything         you used to do when you were well. Some treatments can drain you of energy and you can easily make yourself feel even worse by forcing yourself to do more than you need. Learn to listen to your body's need. If you are tired allow yourself to rest as much as possible and reach out for help and take every offer of support you can get!

You have to learn that if people offer help and support, let them do something.
Tell them what you need to have  done, because they don't know. You have to be willing to let go of your pride and let them help you." In fact by asking others for help you give them the gift of giving and in return you receive the gift of receiving. For many people, it is more difficult to receive than to give. Think about it this way: when you accept the gift of another with grace and gratitude, you are perhaps giving an even greater "gift" to the giver: you are sending a message that they, too, have something worthwhile to contribute.

Whether owing to pride, shyness, embarrassment or sheer inability, many people have a hard time asking for help. It can be hard to ask for and accept outside help, particularly if you have never done so before. There is nothing shameful about seeking help from friends, your family or from a professional trained one, either as an individual or as a family. Health professionals themselves often seek support to help them face feelings of frustration and uncertainty in their lives and work. 


Do you think any of these statements are true for you?

  • I think that people should manage their difficulties  themselves and not trouble other people with them.
  • To ask for help is a sign of weakness.

  • Other people will think that I'm selfish if I accept their help.

  • I do not want to burden other people with my problems; they probably have enough to do with their own. 

  • When people offer me help, I don't believe that they really mean it.

  • The best way to manage my difficulties is to do it myself.

  • People won't think much of me if I can't seem to manage.

  • If I accept someone's help, I will lose my independence.

  • If I accept someones gift of supporting me, I have to give something in return, i.e. I will help you on this report; you help me with my project. I will pick up your child from  school; can you have mine over for a play date next week?

  • It is easier for me to give then to receive.

  • If I'm asking for help other people will see me as needy or incompetent.

  • Another fear is that if you ask for help, you will be surrendering all control, and that the person you want assistance from will take over your life. Can you relate to this statement?

           If you recognise any of these, think again.
       Are they really true?



Giving and Receiving are inextricably interwoven

We each receive certain gifts when we come into this life. These gifts take the form of our special talents, interests, and attributes, as well as our universal human characteristics, such as our ability to love and care for one another.

When we do our best to live our truth and express ourselves as authentically as possible, sharing ourselves as we are genuinely moved to, we naturally give our gifts to others and to the world.

In return, we may receive acknowledgment, appreciation, validation, nurturing, love, and in certain circumstances, money or other material rewards. Receiving in these ways allows us to replenish the life force we have "spent," which in turn enables us to continue giving.

So receiving and giving are opposite energies that are inextricably linked together in the natural flow of life, like inhaling and exhaling. If one aspect of that cycle doesn't function, the entire cycle ceases to function and the life force cannot move freely. If you can't inhale, you will soon have nothing to exhale, and before long, your body will be unable to continue living.

This may seem fairly simple and obvious, yet we have enormous confusion in this area. Many of us have difficulty with giving, receiving, or both.

In my observation, the more common problem is the inability to truly receive. There are a number of reasons why receiving is difficult for so many of us. Certainly, one factor is cultural conditioning. Giving is generally viewed as honorable and praiseworthy. Receiving, or taking, seems perilously close to selfishness, which has a lot of negative connotations for most of us.




How much time are you reaching out to others and how much do you bunker down alone? Your Healing has to begin with you. This does not mean you have to do it alone.

Many people don't want support when they need it most, so it's normal to feel this way. You may pull back from your regular social life and people in general. You may feel that it's just too much work to ask for help. Accepting help from others isn't always easy. When tough things happen, some people tend to pull away. They think, "I can handle this on our own".


Are you suffering from an inability to ask for help or to delegate? It may be hard to trust that someone else can fill your shoes. But, two words might help: yes and no. Saying "yes" to a family member or friend who offers to help is, well, healthy. Knowing when to say "no" can be healthy too. Don't feel pressured into activities or decisions that may not fit your priorities right now. Family and friends are your allies in caregiving. So communicate your fears and feelings to them. Your family will always be your family. And, how your friends help in difficult times will let you see how true they are.


One of the frustrating problems you may have to content with is that your mood might fluctuate much more then you are used to. One minute you may feel crying and full of despair, the next you feel positive and full of hope,. It can be very difficult for other people to tune into your moods. There is nothing wrong with this and understandable. But because of this,  it is very important  that you can express your feelings so that others can help you and understand you. There is nothing worse than someone trying to be upbeat and cheerful when all you want to do is cry on someones shoulder for a while. The people close to you will want to be helpful as possible but there will be times when they won't know just what you want. The more you understand about how you are feeling the better they will be able to help.

Asking for Help is Inner Strength.


The following suggestions may help you asking  for help:
Be specific about what you want, i.e. "Would you clean the kitchen?" is better than " Could you help around the house?" "It would help me if you would do the shopping for the weekend" is better then could you do the shopping?" If you have to go to an appointment with your doctor by a certain time be clear about it. "I would appreciate a lift to the hospital for my 12 o'clock appointment on Tuesday."
My way of reaching out for help was to write a letter to as many people I knew, close ones, friends, family, colleagues, etc. I created a standard letter with a list of things people could do if they wanted to help my family and myself. People generally want to help, they just need to know exactly what is expected of them. What ever way of reaching out to others works best for you - DO IT! Don't hesitate, you can't loose. I had expressed my needs and in which way friends and family could support me. Good things happened as a result of it. 
There are times when you don't want anyone around. It's perfectly fine to tell people this. You could ask people to call you before they come to visit you to safe them the journey.


Open Your Doors and Keep them Open

Still, when you are in a deep, relentless pit of pain, it's hard to think of others. But make no mistake about it they are there. Others are in the room with you, in the wings of the hospital with you, in prayer for you, in kitchens cooking for you, on cell phones spreading the word on your behalf. In trauma, you may have become the lead character, but there is an ensemble cast of participants and a host of witnesses. How you keep the door open to relationships will determine the extent to which you are able to thrive years later.

Keep Your Sense of Humor

If you like to joke with your friends and family, don't stop now. It's okay to laugh at things that make you upset. For many people, humor is a way to gain a sense of control. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.

Laughter therapy


We need to be open to laughter, to seeing the silliness of things that are taken too seriously. To nourish our laugh vines, we need to give ourselves permission to enjoy life again. Grief over a loss is absolutely necessary, but it shouldn't go on forever. Life is richer with laughter. 

Learn to appreciate foolishness. Keep watching comedy TV shows or movies until you find something that strikes you funny. Lots of it is trash, but some of it will make you guffaw until your sides ache.  Be brave enough to forget your troubles, at least for a while. They don't need your attention 24/7. They'll be there when you want to start worrying about them again. If you relax your mind with a fun diversion, you might even come up with some solutions.


You can receive support from:

Family and Friends

Family members and friends can:

  • Keep you company, give you a hug, or hold your hand
  • Listen as you talk about your hopes and fears
  • Help with rides, meals, errands, or household chores
  • Go with you to doctor's visits or treatment sessions
  • Tell other friends and family members ways they can help.

Other People Who Have Cancer

Even though your family and friends help, you may also want to meet people who have cancer now or have had it in the past. Often, you can talk with them about things you can't discuss with others. People with cancer understand how you feel and can:

  • Talk with you about what to expect
  • Tell you how they cope with cancer and live a normal life
  • Help you learn ways to enjoy each day
  • Give you hope for the future

Let your doctor or nurse know that you want to meet other people with cancer. You can also meet other people with cancer in the hospital, at your doctor's office, or through a cancer support group.

Support Groups

Cancer support groups are meetings for people with cancer and those touched by cancer. They can be in person, by phone, or on the Internet. These groups allow you and your loved ones to talk with others facing the same problems. Some support groups have a lecture as well as time to talk. Almost all groups have a leader who runs the meeting. The leader can be someone with cancer or a counselor or social worker.


You may think that a support group is not right for you. Maybe you think that a group won't help or that you don't want to talk with others about your feelings. Or perhaps you're afraid that the meetings will make you sad or depressed.

Support groups may not be for everyone. Some people choose to find support in other ways. But many people find them very helpful. People in the groups often:

  • Talk about what it's like to have cancer
  • Help each other feel better, more hopeful, and not so alone
  • Learn about what's new in cancer treatment
  • Share tips about ways to cope with cancer

If you have a choice of support groups, visit a few and see what they are like. See which ones make sense for you. Although many groups are free, some charge a small fee. Find out if your health insurance pays for support groups.

Spiritual Help

Many people with cancer look more deeply for meaning in in their lives. Spirituality means the way you look at the world and make sense of your place in it. Spirituality can include faith or religion, beliefs, values, and "reasons for being."

Being spiritual can mean different things to everyone. It is a very personal issue. Most people are spiritual in some way, like attending a church, temple, or mosque. Others are spiritual through teaching or volunteer work. And others find it in different ways that are special to them.


Cancer can affect people's spirituality. Some people find that cancer brings a new or deeper meaning to their faith. Others feel that their faith has let them down. For example, you may:

  • Struggle to understand why you have cancer
  • Wonder about life's purpose and how cancer fits in the "fabric of life"
  • Question your relationship with God

Many people find that their faith is a source of comfort. They find they can cope better with cancer when they pray, read religious books, meditate, or talk with members of their spiritual community. Others like to take time for themselves. They write in a journal, read comforting things, or simply reflect.


Many people also find that cancer changes their values. The things you own and your daily duties may seem less important. You may decide to spend more time with loved ones, helping others, doing things in the outdoors, or learning about something new.


Build a Team - Link Creating a support team

Build a team of caregivers so that you don't have to depend on just one person. With a team, people can take turns with tasks such as:

  • washing your hair or giving you a back - rub
  • going food shopping or cooking a meal for you
  • driving you to the doctor's office
  • doing errands like going to the bank or post office
  • cleaning the kitchen or mowing your lawn
  • picking up your children after school

 Find Help Where You Live

Many towns have community volunteers. These people offer help to others near where they live or work. Here are some ways to find volunteers:

  • Look in your local newspaper.
  • Ask at your hospital, library, or place of worship.
  • Call your state or local health department.


People you can turn to for help include:

  • Family and friends. Most people are happy to find out           that something they have to offer--a meal, a ride to the doctor, a phone call - is helpful to you. They may want to         offer you help but do not know what you need or want.

  • Others who also have cancer. People who have been through cancer often share a special bond with one another. Sharing what you have been through with others and              hearing how they have coped can be a source of strength for you.

  • Support groups. There are many types of groups. Think about what you would like in a group and talk to your health care provider to help you find that type of group.

  • Spiritual help, which can come from your church, synagogue, or other religious center. Or you may find that reading, talking with others, and meditating or praying provide you with a sense of peace and strength.

  • Health care providers both in the community and in the hospital. A whole range of specially trained people are available to help you meet all your needs.
  • Caregivers, who provide your day-to-day care. As they          care for you, remind them that they need to care for their own needs as well.

Take Care of Your Caregivers

Cancer and its treatment are hard on everyone, even the people who take care of you. Sometimes caregivers become run down and get sick from the stress. Encourage your caregivers to take time off so they can do errands, enjoy hobbies, or simply have a rest.

Your caregivers might want to join a support group and meet others who are also caring for people with cancer. To find a group nearby, contact your local hospital or cancer center.

Watch for signs of depression in your caregivers. If you think that one of them is depressed, talk to him or her about it. Urge your caregiver to seek professional help. Let him or her know that other people can help you while they are taking care of themselves. To learn more about the signs of depression, see Sadness and Depression.




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