My profession was one of helping people. Living in the same town it is not uncommon for me to still be available for those who need a shoulder to cry on or just an ear. I am still very capable of being a presence to another which is often all they need in times of crises. I am happy when others want me to help, more so now as it means that even though I am retired, (read long term disability), I am still a valuable part of the community and necessary even.
What always surprises me, is that often others feel that they are adding to my burden because I have to deal with my own problems as well. It is completely different from the way I see it. Perception is so personal! Having cancer has often made me feel like I am on the periphery looking in as I no longer seem to have the active role I used to. Having been a caregiver that is even more difficult. I remember when I first got sick, and I was discussing how my daughter and I would journey through this. One of the things I remember saying is "if I still have to be a mom, then that means you still have to go to school and learn"....."neither of us gets to slack off". It was my way of giving my daughter permission to continue, in some small way, being a child. I remember one of her teachers didn't want to call me about some difficulties that she was having b/c he didn't want to bother me. I told him very firmly but kindly, "I don't know how long I have to be her mother, but please let me be it as long as I have." Feisty thing I was! Allowing me to focus on other things and people actually is a form of respite....it takes my mind off my problems for a time.
Those of us who are dealing with illness or loss need to be needed. It is part of the human condition. To take that away only increases the emphasis on the illness, and makes us feel more isolated. I do admit that there are times when I don't have the energy to take on any further problems, but I have been graced to realize that and to say no. Just because I say no today, does not mean that I will say no tomorrow. Keep needing me, so that I will realize that I am important and necessary. There is nothing worse than to feel redundant or useless...especially when you have an illness that may last for years. Cancer is a disease that often people live with today, rather than die from. It is important that their emotional well being be taken care of as well as their physical needs. Also, it is even more important to allow us to decide for ourselves what it is we want to do and no do. I remember having to say to someone in the early days, "I have cancer in the ovaries, not the brain. I can still think for myself". We have lost so much with this illness, don't take away our ability to participant in whatever life we still have.