Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness
Any amount of support is so greatly cherished and appreciated beyond measure. I am forever grateful for your help in our ongoing battle to fight this life-changing disease.
Cancer is not uncommon. There were an estimated 18 million cancer cases around the world in 2018. 18 MILLION!!! We know how terrible of a disease cancer is. We know that cancer takes millions and millions of lives. We think we know the kind of impact cancer has on a person and their loved ones. I mean, the dreaded “C” word is the worst diagnosis anyone can receive, right? But it truly doesn’t hit home until it actually hits your home. And my family got struck…twice.
Both of my parents have been battling cancer over the last few years and this has been one of the most overwhelming, draining, and eye-opening experiences of my life. I thought my parents were both superhuman and that nothing would ever happen to them. But boy, does growing up suck sometimes.
My father is an incredible Executive Chef, who spent most of my growing years working overseas running massive kitchen operations in 5-star hotels - like the Sheraton and Four Seasons. When I was in the 11th grade, my parents decided to open up their own restaurant and bring my dad home for good. They owned and operated a very successful fine-dining restaurant up in Northern Ontario for 15 years. My dad solely ran the BOH (back-of-house) and my mom ran the entire operations FOH (front-of-house). She hosted, she served, she bartended (all mostly alone). She was legit a celebrity in town. We couldn’t go anywhere without people excitedly greeting her with “Helen! Hello!” If anyone knows my mother, you know that she is the kindest, most generous human. Always the host of family gatherings & friends were always welcome to join. And at our restaurant, guests would come for the incredible meal, but would stay because the hospitality was just over-the-top. My parents were a power couple.
In the summer of 2017, my father was experiencing painful and frequent urination. After going to see a doctor, they took some tests and told him that it was nothing serious and it was just a bladder infection that would go away with some antibiotics. After weeks, it only got worse. He went back to get further testing and was told that he had cancer in his bladder and that it may have possibly spread to his prostate. After months of chemotherapy, he had to have a radical cystectomy. He now has a stoma and external pouch system - that will be there for his lifetime.
At this point, they had sold the restaurant and was planning to move down to Southern Ontario to be closer to my brother and I. With plans to open a small business there, all of that was put on hold with my father’s cancer diagnosis.
My mother, who is literally superwoman, was care-taking my dad through this time, while secretly dealing with a pain in her mouth…that even drinking water would make her wince. She didn’t share this with anyone because with both of them unable to work, finances had become tight and she was concerned about the dental costs that may ensue. My mom is the ultimate backbone in our family and she would never dream to cause a burden on anyone else and always had to be the “strong” one (which also ties back to the title of this post). After neglecting this issue in her mouth for months, the pain got so bad that she could no longer hide it and was forced to make a dentist appointment. One appointment led to another, and what we had originally thought was going to be a dental procedure of removing a tooth or treating some gum issue…turned into a cancer diagnosis.
My mother? Cancer?! IMPOSSIBLE. She never drank alcohol, never smoked, was always so health conscious and took such good care of her skin and body…how would she get CANCER? I was confused. I was angry. I was devastated.
She had a lump that was quickly growing out of her lower jaw (by her chin) and was scheduled to go into surgery at the end of November 2018. The procedure was gruelling. Two surgical teams were involved and it took them over 13 hours to complete the surgery. The process required taking bone from her shin, and skin from her neck to cover the area removed from her jaw. However, within a few days, the skin that was taken from her neck (AKA the flap) went necrotic. She had to go back into OR - for a second time. This time, they had to create a new flap taking skin from her leg. Another 10 hour surgery. She spent over a month in the hospital - which also meant spending the holiday season there.
Since, she’s been through both chemo and radiation, and currently fighting an ongoing infection around the site of the flap. We continue to wait in hopes that things will get better but continue to struggle with this battle we are facing against cancer. Cancer is not only physically and emotionally draining but also extremely overwhelming financially. I have tried my best to alleviate some of their financial stresses so they would be able to focus on healing - but it is simply not enough.
I have never considered asking anyone else for help and kept thinking I can do it on my own, somehow/someway. I was working a full-time job and a couple of side jobs and hustled for every opportunity I could. But after enough time, I was slowly burning out and felt like no matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. The worst part was that I was working so much that I felt like I didn’t have the time (or energy) to physically visit home and BE there with my parents. I knew I had to make some changes in order to be in a place where I could better serve them.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, you have to take care of yourself first.
It’s been one-month since I quit my full-time job. And in that month, I have been focusing on my personal growth spiritually & mentally, and waiting for The Universe to send me the answers. It was time for me to stop DO-ing everything and spinning my wheels, and allow things to flow.
Then it happened! I woke up one morning and The Universe had spoken to me. I needed to ask for help. My ego had been preventing me from the very thing I needed to do all along. I opened up my laptop right away and I started to write this post and set-out to create the GoFundMe campaign for my parents. There were so many fundraisers to help families just like mine… so why not mine?
My wish is that I can alleviate the financial burdens that cancer has put on my parents so they are able to heal wholly (inside and out), giving them hope for the future and reminding them that there is still so much left to write in their story.
Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help & brave enough to ask for it.
If you’ve read this entire post, thank you from the bottom of my heart.