In a society that prizes independence and is largely centered around doing things yourself, many people have trouble asking for help. But asking for help is a skill, and that skill becomes even more important after a cancer diagnosis.

Many people with cancer are used to taking care of others and putting their own needs last, so shifting their behavior to receive help can be difficult. They may struggle and feel discomfort with giving up control over certain aspects of life and letting others act on their behalf.

When you or someone you care about is diagnosed with cancer, some of your attitudes about independence may need to shift. And, in fact, accepting help means that you understand how to prioritize, how to be present, and how to show gratitude. It is also important to realize that accepting help from your friends and family allows your loved ones to feel useful in a situation where they often feel helpless, and letting them help you is an act of kindness.

There are a few ways to make accepting help during cancer easier, including:

  • When people offer help, accept it. It is great to be prepared with specific suggestions such as getting assistance with childcare, lawn work, running errands, or preparing meals.

  • Make use of digital tools. You can use group texts or social media to ask for help. Often these are useful because they can take away the awkwardness you may feel when you ask for help.

  • Give up some control and accept imperfection. A difficult part of relying on others is that they may do things differently from you. But it is important to focus on the fact that things are still getting done and that you have supportive people in your life who want to help you.

  • Keep a list of fun things to do with your loved ones. Take a walk, enjoy a snack, or play a game with someone who wants to help. You need these opportunities to be with the ones you care about, too.

Sometimes, you may need to remind yourself that you can’t control how people respond to a request for help. Some people may be too busy to help. Others may agree to help and not keep their word. And, although this may feel disappointing, it is important to recognize that the vast majority of people do want to help during a cancer diagnosis.

Asking for help after a cancer diagnosis can certainly be difficult. You may feel like you have lost control over aspects of your life or feel like you are a burden. But remember, the supportive and generous people in your life want to help lessen cancer’s toll on you. In fact, knowing when to ask for help is a sign of strength and self-awareness, and it can often be a lasting act of kindness to the ones you love.