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Lessons Breast Cancer Taught Me About Relationships

Fighting breast cancer has brought me a deeper vulnerability that I ever could have imagined, allowing myself to come face-to-face with tough emotions when facing a life-threatening disease. And now, almost five months after active treatment for the disease ended, I am realizing just how much that has changed me – and how much it has changed some of my relationships.

Fighting breast cancer deepened some of my relationships. It deepened the ones with those who were brave enough to confront the harsh truths of this disease with me; the ones with those who listened as I told them how I was feeling after a tough round of chemo and how I had anxiety about getting sick after being injected with those dangerous chemicals intended to fight my disease. I became closer to those who were not afraid to be vulnerable, right there with me.

Now, months after my hair started coming back in and I slowly began to adapt to a new normal in life, I am blessed and thankful for those relationships that helped me during my good and bad times. I am so happy that those relationships have strengthened, but ask anyone who has gone through the trauma of cancer – or likely any other trauma – and they will likely say that not every one of their relationships was strengthened through the ordeal. It is only those friendships with individuals who allowed themselves to be vulnerable that there is a deeper connection. It is only with those who connected with you at a deeper level that the bond is strengthened. I don't fault people for not being on the same level -- it is hard to be vulnerable.

But, what this experience has taught me is that I need that, and that to me, it is the only way to grow personally. Anything less seems shallow now. It feels empty. And, when I feel that emptiness when interacting with others now, I realize that I have changed, and perhaps they haven't. It feels bittersweet, because it's a bit like letting go. Ultimately, however, it is what breast cancer brought me. It brought me a new outlook on life, a desire for meaning, and a new sense of myself. And, for that I am thankful.

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