The kindness of strangers will always surprise you. My best friend was the first to offer establishing a ‘GoFundMe’ campaign when she heard of the struggles I was having with Centrelink. As a naturally shy person, at first I wasn’t too keen on the idea. I knew most of my closest friends did not have much disposable cash (if any) and I didn’t know to what extent distant acquaintances or even complete strangers would be willing to part with a portion of their hard-earned salary. Did complete strangers really fund these campaigns? As I started reading through some other campaigns that were already established for the many, many other people out there who were suffering from conditions worse than mine, I felt it wasn’t my place to try to compete with them when I was already feeling so guilty for not being able to donate to them myself. I couldn’t shake the idea that if I couldn’t help all the other people out there, then I could at the very least not take potential funding away from them by having my own campaign launched.
A couple of weeks later I had coffee with some colleagues of mine who pitched the same idea. I relayed to them my concerns and they then asked whether I would be comfortable with such a campaign being circulated around our office only. I began to consider this proposal, however I also knew that in the time I had been away from work, a lot of my closest colleagues had either left the company or had taken up an overseas secondment. Upon looking at our most current employee listing, I realised nearly half of the staff members had joined after I left and therefore would have no idea who I was. It felt very much like asking complete strangers for underserved help, despite my colleagues trying to reassure me that I was in all of their mind every day.
In the end, the most senior members of my team banded together to pitch in enough money for me to completely clear the debt I had accumulated from the treatments I received. It was an extremely humbling moment as it came at a time when I was losing hope and feeling overwhelmed by financial stress. To have that weight taken off my shoulders gave me the strength to centre myself once again and stay focused on my goal of beating cancer. It also was the reminder I needed that my worries of becoming obsolete were completely invalid and that my team were still there, waiting patiently for me to take as much time as I needed to regain my health and return to work in full form. It was a truly touching gesture that reignited my pride in my work and the ultimate demonstration of how generous people can be.
Everyone needs help at some stage in their life so there is no shame in admitting when it happens to you. No matter how proud, shy or alone you feel, don’t shut others out thinking you’re doing them a favour. Establishing your own fundraiser can feel very daunting or even slightly narcissistic (you’d be surprised how hard it can be to talk about yourself on a public forum) so if you can get a friend to write your story up for you I would highly recommend it. The funding I received out of the charity of others was the only thing that stopped me from becoming completely financially screwed, so don’t forget that when you’re diagnosed with a serious illness you should be embracing every opportunity you have to seek help from others in order to get yourself back on track.