Create Your Tribe
It was hard at first telling other people I had cancer. Saying it out loud made it real. I hated seeing the pain in my family’s eyes when they looked at me. I didn’t want to become “Cancer Kim.” I always considered myself a strong person. I was self-reliant and capable. Slowly, ovarian cancer chipped away at that. But that wasn’t totally a bad thing. Sure, chemo made my beautiful long hair fall out, but it also opened me up to other people in a way I hadn’t been before.
When I woke up from my first surgery, I was surrounded by my husband, three cousins, a very dear friend, and my doctor. Seeing them all there supporting me was priceless. My 80-year-old aunt and my mother-in-law stayed with us after I came home.
I thought letting people help me would make me seem weak and vulnerable. But in truth, it helped me feel stronger. My dear husband and these strong women became the first members of “My Tribe.” And slowly, that tribe has grown to include friends, colleagues, and my newfound sisters who are survivors.
If you have ovarian cancer, or love someone who does, you need a tribe, too. Here are a few tips for creating a healthy support network that empowers you.
- It takes all kinds. Include people who can meet different needs. My Tribe includes men and women, old and young. I have some tribe members who run errands, and others who are good at cheering me up. I need them all.
- Ask for what you need—and be specific. A lot of people offered to bring over food while I was having chemo, but I just couldn’t eat. The only thing that sounded good to me was cupcakes. So I asked my friend who is an awesome baker for a batch. She brought them over and we sat around and laughed and talked and ate every last one of them. I needed that. To this day, my husband calls it the Great Cupcake Caper!
- Create a safe space. In My Tribe I don’t feel judged or misunderstood. You have to feel safe. Some people just aren’t good in stressful situations. It’s okay to kick people out of your tribe.
What do you need today? Take time to make a list of all the people in your tribe. (And don’t forget to include a good baker!) You may be amazed at how empowering it feels.