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I Don't Want to be Strong Anymore!

I have always been the “strong one” and the “mom” of my friend groups. Basically, I am the person that people come to when they need advice, when they need to vent, or when they need encouragement. For so long, it felt like I always had to be strong and handle anything that came my way, including my issues and everyone else’s issues. People would call, and I would answer and let them vent while actively listening and giving advice when requested. 

Making some much needed changes

Today, I no longer desire to be the strong friend. For the sake of my own health, and in the interest of coping with skin cancer, that needs to come to an end.

It's become too much

I am an empath, and I can literally FEEL everything around me. I also have a bad habit of taking on other people’s drama after they’ve come to me for either advice or to vent. I try to fix their issues, and it really is no longer helpful for me. Coping with skin cancer, and especially a rare skin cancer diagnosis is not easy. It takes a lot of your energy to get through.

Coping with skin cancer is hard

I did not recognize the extent to which being the "strong one" was hurting me until I was diagnosed with dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, or DFSP, in February 2021. When I found out I had this rare form of skin cancer, I was completely heartbroken and my spirit was crushed. I am usually such a positive person and I never complain, but I also struggle with generalized anxiety disorder and depressive episodes.

Learning of my diagnosis was tough

I was going through a very tough time when I learned of my diagnosis. Later learning that I needed a second surgery because there were still remaining cancer cells after the first surgery didn't make things any easier. None of this made coping with skin cancer any easier.

Skin cancer changed what I was capable of

I was also physically incapable of doing things I could usually do after I had my first surgery, and it was even worse after my second surgery. I rushed back to work only 4 days after the first large wide excision (that was done under local anesthesia) because I thought I could be “strong”, and I immediately regretted it walking from my car to the building.

Prioritizing myself

After the second surgery, I took more time off to properly allow my body time to heal, and I allowed myself to take a break from being “strong”. I learned how to ask for help, how to sit still, and how to rely on my village for support and encouragement. Having cancer is an experience that you really shouldn’t try to be strong and go through alone.

Setting boundaries to protect myself

Now, I have created and upheld some boundaries in order to prevent forcing myself to always be “strong”. It's simply what I had to do to make coping with skin cancer easier for myself. When I have a friend who comes to me wanting to vent, I ask myself if I have the mental capacity to handle a vent session from them. If I don’t, I simply don’t answer the phone or open the text message, or I read the text and wait to respond until I’m ready.

I'm prioritizing my own health

I don’t require myself to constantly be available to other people anymore. And if I don’t want to go to a social event, since I am an introvert, then I don’t go. Some of these boundaries may seem selfish, but in order to take care of myself, I have to be selfish sometimes. I must care for myself first before I can pour into other people, and that in itself makes me strong.

What changes did you make in your life to make coping with skin cancer a bit easier?

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