Download FREE booklet: How to ask for help when serious illness strikes


Hand of drowning man

Credit: Lilyana Vynogradova

My sister Roxe has always been generous. Generous to a fault. I’ve been a recipient of that generosity, as have friends in need, friends on their birthdays and other holidays, and complete strangers such as the countless people behind her in the Tim Horton’s drive-thru whose coffees she bought.

When she was diagnosed with metastatic endometrial cancer, I was happy to travel the roughly 450 kilometres (about 280 miles) from my home in Toronto to hers in Ottawa to be with her for chemotherapy sessions and the days afterward. But for the times I couldn’t be with her, Roxe was reluctant to ask any of her friends or neighbours for help.

“What about asking someone for a drive to the hospital for a chemo session?” I suggested, knowing it would be a longish trip across town.

“It’s too far, too early in the morning – and during rush hour,” Roxe said. “I can take a taxi.”

“What about asking someone to come and sit with you, after rush hour?” I said.

“I can’t ask someone to sit with me for five hours!” she said.

“You could ask them to sit with you for an hour,” I offered, to which Roxe just shrugged.

I was fighting a losing battle with my sister’s stubbornness….  I decided to compile a brief guide for other people (and their caregivers) who are reluctant to ask for help when serious illness strikes.

“What about groceries?” I continued.

“The store delivers,” she countered.

I was fighting a losing battle with my sister’s stubbornness. My work and responsibilities in Toronto didn’t allow me to just pick up and move into Roxe’s house for the duration. I would come to Ottawa as often as I could, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to be there for at least one cycle of chemotherapy. I understood her reluctance to impose on others, but I soon learned that her friends and neighbours were almost desperate to help.

On my first trip, I rented a car, but not one that would be waiting for me at the train station. I called Roxe’s neighbours Janet and Graham and asked if it would be possible for one of them to pick me up at the train and drive me to the rental location. “Finally!” said Janet. “I can do something!”

I’m sure my sister is not the only person who has trouble asking for or accepting help when she’s actually in need of it. I decided to compile a brief guide for other reluctant people (and their caregivers) in similar situations. I relied on my own thoughts about asking for (and accepting) help, friends’ advice and the recommendations of others who have written on the subject. I’ve had mixed success with the suggestions here (and I do not mean to suggest that my sister made all the arguments against asking for help listed here), but I offer them in the hope that they may be helpful to you.

You can download the simple PDF how-to-ask-for-help or this version how-to-ask-for-help-book which you can print double-sided (following the instructions for printing a “booklet” that your computer will prompt you), fold in half and bind with staples or tape (cellophane tape, duct tape, colourful washi tape) to produce a 12-page booklet.

I welcome comments and suggestions for other ways to encourage people with serious illness to swallow their pride and ask for help.~TM

4 responses

  1. Thank you Terry, and Roxe, for being the inspiration. Have downloaded, will share. Love to you both.

  2. Hello Terry,

    Happy holidays. Hope you enjoyed time with friends and family.

    I’m writing to ask if you would like to post a short blog with on this topic. If you have a look at our site you can see the sort of short commentary we typically post. We have a maximum of 800 words for an opinion piece — so you want to make and defend a claim. We could include a link to this booklet. At the very least this would help with the dissemination of your project, but I also think the issue would be of interest to our readers.

    1. Hey Francoise,

      Happy holidays to you and yours too! And here’s to a better 2017.
      Thanks for the offer to post on your site. Let me have a look and write something, which I’ll send to you in a Word document? And then you can tell me if I’ve got the approach right.
      I’ll probably have that for you tomorrow. I’m in Ottawa with my sister, who is sleeping off her last round of chemo, so I’m running errands, etc.
      Thanks again – be back to you soon,

  3. Adele - BELL.NET | Reply

    Splendid terry. Happy new year from the big apple X

    Sent from my iPad


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