Asking for Help During Breast Cancer Treatment

Recently, I received a letter from Brenda in North Carolina.  Brenda recently completed chemo, had a double mastectomy less than three weeks ago, and is ready to begin radiation.  She hired a cleaning woman to help her clean because her husband isn’t a detail kind of guy.  Brenda felt guilty she had to hire someone to clean, but had to give in because she was not capable!

Her words made me ponder this.  Why is it so difficult for us to admit we need help even at the most difficult time in our lives, and when we do, we still feel guilty!?!   Most women tell me they lose their “cleaning desire” after cancer because they realize it just isn’t that important, so I told Brenda “Enjoy every moment of that AHHH feeling you get when someone else cleans your home!”

bucketandmopBrenda isn’t the first woman who has written me about those issues.  Many women have written me after cancer treatment ends and tell me that they wish they would not have been so proud during cancer treatment.  They wished they would have asked and received more help when friends and family offered.

Absolutely the toughest lesson I had to learn during treatment was asking for help.  It was not easy, but often I had no choice.    My sister had been telling me for months, “Let me come and clean your house.”   Finally, I had to say yes.  Even then, I helped her.  It made me feel more capable because I had her help and assistance.  I remember that day with so much fondness.  It meant so much to me.

grocerycartMy friend, Judy, called and offered to pick up groceries or take me to the grocery store every week.  I had no choice to take her up on her offers on several occasions.   It was so difficult to say yes, I need help. But I will never forget her kindnesses.

One non-profit organization, Cleaning for a Reason takes applications from breast cancer patients who need help cleaning their homes.  I have heard good reports about this organization who provides services in the United States and Canada.

Never will I forget some words my Oncologist spoke to me after my before my first chemo treatment.  He said, “Now is not the time to be a heroine.  There will be plenty of time for that once treatment ends.  Now is the time to ask for help.”







  1. Denise, I have to agree with you about the difficulty we have in asking for help, but I have a different take on this. From the very moment I was told I had breast cancer I felt I had lost all control, that my body had betrayed me and I needed to rely on the experts to see me through. This is a very humbling and different reality compared to what the media, family and friends all say “your strong, you can FIGHT this”. I think that is why I would say most of us feel so much better once we get a treatment plan. We have ammunition, a plan and yes, some control. For me, part of being strong, a “warrior” was feeling like my life was unchanged-that cancer wasn’t going to take anything from me like my routine, my job, my independence. I’m not saying this is right, but I think that is why a lot of us try and maintain our lives-we don’t want to give in to what cancer is doing to us. Part of me being a warrior, was admitting I tired easily and I felt that by having my daily naps, I was stocking my ammunition, but I continued to work (after 3 days off each chemo) because it made me feel “normal” and as if I had control and usefulness. We must listen to our bodies and compromise with what we can and cannot do. For me, I needed someone to drive me to chemo and back. 4 hours on the road was not something I could do and that was where I needed help. Each of us must decide where we need help and not be too proud to ask for it. Respect must be given to all of us for handling our limitations the best we can. Hugs to all and remember to be proud of what you can do and acceptance of help from those who love us. It helps them also ;-), Shari

    • Shari – thank you – great post! And I appreciate it!
      I so agree with you that we need some sort of control and for all of
      us it is different. No way would I have been able to work like you did,
      but I found my control in other areas.
      My “control” was driving 3 hours on the road back and forth to chemo! Out of 16 chemo and 4 next day Neulasta shots, I drove back and forth to all but two! Looking back I think that was kind of silly, why did I do it. But that was where I needed the control. It helped me feel normal.
      So we were able to be polar opposites in these areas, but we were looking for the same thing: some control in our lives.
      Thanks for writing this post, Shari. I hope you are doing well. My best, Denise

  2. Thank you Denise, I am doing GREAT because I have learned to be so grateful for each day, for appreciating the love and support from everyone around me and finding beauty in the little things. I have new health issues but cancer has shown me that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought

  3. My friend signed me up for Cleaning for a Reason and they have come once and she said she will be back one more time! I am happy about that! In the mean time, I went ahead and hired someone to come every two weeks. There is nothing nicer than coming home to a clean home!

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