Help Literacy Hub

Richie’s Story

My husband, Richie, and I lived in the suburbs of Melbourne with our three kids. 

Richie was a fit and healthy man.  He played hockey, cycled regularly and, in his younger years, he ran.  He didn’t smoke. 

When he was 47, Richie was diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer, neuro endocrine tumours.  By the time we got the diagnosis, the cancer had metastasised.  The oncologist told us that, with treatment, Richie might expect to live several years. 

I was 40.  Our kids were 11, 9 and 4. 

For about six weeks, we were in limbo while the doctors decided how best to treat Richie. 

It was a time of great uncertainty and I rang the Cancer Council for help.  The nurse there suggested I set up a Gather My Crew account.  She told me that people would quickly mobilise to help us and the first thing they would think of was meals.  This could quickly result in us playing “freezer Tetris”.  Gather My Crew would enable us to say what kind of help we needed and when we needed it. 

Richie and I set up an account. 

Richie had always had a strong sense of community.  He was very connected with his family, his university friends, his cycling friends, his hockey club.  We were both connected with communities through our kids’ kinder and schools.  Richie had a firm belief that it is OK to ask for help.  He held this belief having himself been a big giver of help to friends and family over the years. 

Richie’s cancer diagnosis was hard for us.  Within six months, the prognosis had shorted to “six months to two years”.  We knew he was going to die.  This was hard for us but it was also hard for everyone around us.  They were sad for us.  I think they could also see that it could have been any one of them in Richie’s position.  They wanted to help because it eased their own sadness and sense of powerlessness and fragility. 

We used Gather My Crew to ask for help.  I used it as a catalyst to think about what I could farm out to other people.  In other words, I had to develop the skill of working out what other people might be able to do to help ease my burden.  This was good for me. 

We used it to ask for meals when we were low but also to ask people not to deliver unsolicited meals if our freezer was full.  We scheduled for people to do our washing, brush the dog and take Richie to chemo treatment.  As the cancer progressed and riddled his bones, Richie became prone to falling.  I used Gather Mr Crew to schedule people to come and sit with him so he wasn’t home alone when I went out.  These visits and accompanying him at chemo became precious time that Richie spent with friends and family. 

Richie was a great communicator.  He understood that good communication gives rise to strong human relationships.  For two years, we used Gather My Crew to send out regular updates to friends and family about Richie’s state of health, his treatment and how we were going as a family.  This kept people in the loop and gave them insight into when we might need a little more help than usual.  One of the last updates I sent out was to tell people that Richie had died. 

Richie’s illness was devastating for all of us.  The very hardest thing was watching him deteriorate, inching closer and closer to death. 

But in among the sadness were threads of light and joy.  The biggest one was the strength of the community that revealed itself around us as things got harder.  Neighbours, friends, family, work colleagues, school contacts – they all came out of the woodwork and stepped up to provide sympathy and help.  For me, this was the most incredible consolation: the power of human community. 

Gather My Crew helped us make the most of that community.  But it also helped us strengthen that community in our own way.  By giving our updates, thinking about how we could get people to help us and actually asking for help, we gave something back to that community too. 

Life will always have hiccups and challenges, some smaller some larger.  We try to eradicate them but we never will.  It’s the very nature of human existence.  That’s why it’s important to learn how to cope with what life throws at us. 

What I learned from Richie was that the strongest people accept their own vulnerability and ask for help.  One of the most powerful things you can do in a time of crisis is to understand the support that comes from the humans around you. 

Thank you Sam for sharing your story. We’re so glad Gather My Crew was helpful to you during this difficult time.

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