Ruthlessly Self-Protective

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m very direct and that I call it like I see it. But I am (or was) also a caretaker and someone who put other people’s needs before mine. Enter cancer. I wrote in an earlier post about the clarity that comes with this diagnosis, and part of that clarity is knowing what situations — and more importantly, what people — are good for me now.

Soon after my diagnosis, there were a handful of people who simply could not deal with it, people who were close to me. Whether that was about their fears or not wanting to be so close to someone who could die or simply just being schmucks, I have no idea. And it really doesn’t matter. All I needed to know was that I had to insulate myself from their negativity and lack of support. I was shown by some amazing people just what real support looked like — the random generous gesture, silly memes to cheer me up, a simple card in the mail — that the lack of support from these few people stood in stark contrast. Ultimately, I have to protect myself, and surround myself with people who tell me “you got this,” not those who want to control me, or fawn over me with their sadness, or who make my cancer about them.

Perhaps those people will come back into my life when this is all over, and perhaps not. If I’m honest, in each case, keeping these relationships required a lot of me and now that I have less to give, these rifts aren’t a huge surprise, and perhaps a long time coming.  I heard from other survivors that this would happen and that I might have surprises on either side of this — people who I thought would be there for me disappointing me, and people who I never thought would be there becoming some of my staunchest supporters. They were right.

In the end, it’s up to me to create an environment in which I can beat this thing. And if that means that I have to ask my husband not to cry in front of me, then maybe that’s not being mean, but rather loving myself (and him) enough to do what I have to to get through this.

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