I do think that i need to say a little something about the amazing contribution of friends. Kevin was diagnosed with cancer in December 2004, and there are some friends who have taken this journey with us all the way, without failing, faltering or flinching. There are friends we have also picked up along the way, who have also amazed me.
I have been astounded by how constructive and helpful people can be. This is not a journey that they have to participate in, and indeed there are some who have chosen not to, again, something i can understand and respect.
However, there are a core of friends who do not wait to be asked for help, they just come in, do things and don't even expect to be thanked! These friends have given lifts to appointments, waited for Kevin through chemo (he always prefered me not to do it, i annoyed him, i talked too much and kept looking at my watch), done emergency DIY (twice when Kevin was in hospital the roof leaked), taken Dennis (as i will call our little menace (his is the only name that is not real in here)) at short notice, dog walked and dog sat, brought round dinner and shopping and also gardening! One friend used connections to get us a 4by4 to get to hospital in the snow, in comfort!
There are lots of people who say "if there is anything i can do to help...". My default response is "thank you, but we're fine..". I am not sure what they expect me to do. I find it hard to ask for help at the best of times. Am i supposed to give them a list? This experience has taught me to be better at it, but it is still hard to do. I am independent, capable and proud of it, but i am not superhuman and juggling a full-time job, a small child, a sick husband and maintaining a home is hard!
There are also those who come round and help themselves to tea and cake, this too, is extraordinarily helpful right now, as Kevin is enjoying seeing people while he can and it is far better to see them whilst alive and able to enjoy their company. In fact we have had to organise times when people aren't here, so he can rest! For a dying man, Kevin has a very busy schedule for January!
Kevin is much better at asking people for help. He is determined to complete his vision for the house, and not being able to do it himself anymore he has enlisted the help of a builder friend (the one who fixed the roof for me), a painter friend, an interior design friend, his brother to do the bathroom and his sister to help him sort things out. I admire him being able to do this, i have never been very good at it (asking for help), he is getting things done - being quite bossy, actually! (Not that unusual for those that know him!) I always wait until it is too late to ask, so i really appreciate those who just do, not ask! I silently and publicly thank them with all my heart!
I woke up the other Saturday, looked out of the window and a friend was in the garden cutting up a tree that had been lying on the ground for some time, waiting to be sorted. Kevin does the gardening, we have very defined roles, and up until recently i have not encroached on his area and he has not on mine. I have started to keep a book on his jobs so that i know what to do, when he is not here to tell me. Believe me, he does tell me, whether i need to be told or not! We have developed these roles because we are comfortable with what we do and do it well, delegating is not something that either of us is good at!
This can cause the odd dispute, Kevin gets impatient easily and wants to do things himself. Friends have also been great for doing things and not having to take the criticism, he is much less critical of them. Is is true that we always take it out on the ones we love!
There is a book, which i borrowed from Grove House called "What can i do to help?" For those of you struggling to know, which is most, it is a good book to read. Many people struggle to know how to help, they don't want to intrude, many people hold back, i found it very helpful, although it didn't tell me how to ask for help! I have always been the patron saint of lost causes, helping people who don't really need it, i am learning to be better at boundary management, i am not taking on other's problems right now, i have enough of my own to cope with.
Kevin's brother said to me last weekend "you look less stressed". I was appalled that i could look "less stressed" for being told my husband has only 4 months left! But when i think about it, i am. Yes this is painful and hard, but there is now support, since December lots of people have called round and "been there". Our journey started in December 2004, and other than a few core friends who have been there in energencies, we have taken that journey on our own. Now the core friends have strengthened and we also have nurses and doctors visiting regularly.
Being busy and seeing people regularly is much better than feeling isolated and battling alone. I called this blog Carrie's War, after the book i read, when i was as a child. It is my war to find my identity and purpose in an ever changing situation. My battle to be a good mum, good wife, good employee in all the uncertainty, my battle to remain true to me, and also true to those i love. There were times last year when i sat up until the small hours of the morning planning how i would quit from being me! Thanks to those friends i have not yet lost my battle! I really cannot tell you how grateful i am!