Tuesday, 29 March 2011

It's not you, it's me, cancer.

Tucked away amongst all of the reading material that I received three weeks ago was a sheet titled 10 Commandments for Fighting Cancer. Number 5, Be selfish, was the only one that I was really struggling to implement. I was having a hard time imagining myself as selfish in my world built around the needs of others. But, I have seemingly managed my first truly (or, maybe more accurately, purposefully) selfish act. I ended a relatively new relationship when I realized that I was holding someone's hand instead of having my hand held during a time of utter upheaval in my life. I enabled this person's downward spiral by supporting their reaction to my diagnosis when what I really needed to do was focus on my own. However, the break-up process was lengthier and far more complicated than I had anticipated. I was under the naive impression that I had found a fool-proof excuse for breaking up with someone. After all, who could argue against the rationale that a gal with cancer needs some time and space to process new information, to focus on herself, and to conserve her precious energy? This very logical argument was repeatedly met with statements such as, "I won't leave you in your time of need," and "I'll stand by you no matter what happens." I was admittedly baffled by this blatant disregard for my needs that were, for the very first time in my life, expressed so clearly, pointedly, and selfishly. After a bit of pondering I realized that instead of providing an easy out, my cancer may have created an opportunity for heroism. I, a single mother, a professor, a person who is used to taking care of everyone and everything, was finally also vulnerable. Perhaps this new fragility, along with the accessibility of stereotypes of what young women in my situation want to hear, created an almost obsessive desire to care for me. Ironically, this intensity to provide for my perceived needs led to the dismissal of my actual stated needs, and ultimately to the demise of a relationship that had potential. In the end, I employed a traditional break-up strategy, the classic "It's not you, it's me," that was both successful and selfish. Mission accomplished.