JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rhonda Myers admits she has attempted to be “Superwoman” most of her adult life. Now a fight with colon cancer is putting her relationships with others and her understanding of Christian service into perspective.
“I don’t want to be a burden,” she admitted in a recent interview. “I guess I’ve had the ‘Superwoman’ mentality. I want to do for others, and I’ve seen it as a sign of weakness to ask for help.”
Myers of Jefferson City has been particularly active in ministry, volunteering the last several years in various capacities with Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union, including as an Acteen specialist and central region consultant.
She has served on various committees and teams at Southridge Baptist Church in Jefferson City, where she is a member, and with Concord Baptist Association. In addition, she is a professional family counselor.
And she has always been available to her two adult children, two grandchildren and her extended family.
As a counselor, Myers intellectually understands the concept of setting boundaries and saying no. She admits she had failed to realize — until forced to stop — just how many tasks she had taken on and how seldom she actually had said no to requests for her time and energy.
Diagnosed late last year, she underwent surgery on March 5 and again on March 15. A couple of chemotherapy treatments remain.
Rhonda is quick to point out that she doesn’t blame God for the disease but that God has used and is using her situation to guide her into deeper relationships.
Her experience has taught her and continues to reinforce a couple of truths. First, she has realized that today’s society treats time as a commodity. “It’s hard to ask [for help] since I know their time is limited,” she said.
Second, she has learned that, for her, the ability to ask a specific person for help depends upon the level of intimacy already established with that individual. “I haven’t hesitated to call Lena [a longtime friend and neighbor]. I was able to do that with her from the beginning...because I know how she would receive the request,” Myers explained.
Third, she generally would not ask someone for help who doesn’t offer assistance first. “We’re not hearing ‘call if you need anything’ as much as in earlier times,” she said. “It’s a time thing. People are involved in their own concerns.”
Then Rhonda turned from the intellectual approach she had taken, thought for a minute and then admitted: “It takes humbleness. Pride stands in the way. Sometimes we’re almost too prideful to ask for help.”
But the realization that asking for help is one thing she can do in the middle of a situation over which she has little or no control made asking easier. “I see the burden it places on [her husband] Kelly. It’s like a phone call away to ask for help. My contribution is to make that call,” she said.
Kelly Myers has taken on most of the domestic chores and care for Rhonda on the days when treatment is especially draining, in addition to his full-time job.
Rhonda also admits that the illness has forced her to rethink the way she approaches all of life. “The Lord slowed me down so I’m going...to be more intentional,” she said, and intentional is all aspects, including connecting to God.
“I really understand the power of prayer and I realized how I have not been doing it intentionally in my own life,” she said.
Her experience also is helping her strengthen relationships with people, including those she has sometimes held at arms-length. When Rhonda didn’t make a specific request when a member of the extended family offered to help, that individual said, “Really, let me help.”
The encounter made Myers realize she bears the responsibility to respond. “I have to humble myself to allow people to make the offer and to take them up on it,” she said.
She also realized that sometimes she judged whether the offer was genuine. God has reminded her judgment has no place. “I’ve had to lessen the judgment of whether or not they will do what they say.”
Rhonda also admits that once the treatment has ended, she might be tempted to return to some old habits. “I have a fear of going back to the Superwoman syndrome. I’m going to have to set personal boundaries so that I don’t fall back into that busyness,” she said.
She and Kelly have spent more time together since the diagnosis and she doesn’t want to lose the closeness that has grown between them. “I want to honor my husband by spending more time with him. A richness has developed by slowing down and spending more time together,” she said.
“I want to be really intentional.... I want to make [life] count.”