Friday, December 13, 2013

Toxic Exposure? Dating with Cancer

What does it mean to love yourself?  Does it mean that you're perfect?  No.  Does it mean that you're better than anyone else?  Nope, not even close.  Does it mean you're happy with your life?  Not quite.  For me, to love myself means that I acknowledge I'm doing the best I can.  I'm not in competition with anyone.  I don't need anyone's approval.  This is the best me that I can offer to the world.

That moment of being given a cancer diagnosis can be one of the loneliest feelings in the world.  It doesn't matter how many people are there to support and love you.  It doesn't matter who has been there before and lived to tell their tale.  It doesn't matter how often you talk to God. When you are faced with your death, it's isolating and lonely.  No matter what you do, when it's your time, nobody can go on that journey with you.  You will be leaving here alone.

Where has that realization left me as of today?  I guess that left me at the final stage of grief....acceptance.  Acceptance of my own mortality one day, hopefully in my old age.  Acceptance of who I am now.  And finally, acceptance that life will never be how I planned, but rather, the most unique kaleidoscope of events and emotions.

Several months ago, I ran across a TED talk on vulnerability by Brene' Brown.  If you get a chance, look it up on Youtube, it's amazing.  But she talks about how, in order to be loved or even to love others, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  For most of us, we show the world what we think they want to see, the happy smiles, the pretty house, and the made up world we wish we lived.  But what we all crave to see is that we aren't alone, that everyone goes through the good, bad and ugly truth of life.  Nobody wants to be alone.

This brings me to my love life.  How on earth could a cancer patient put herself on a dating site?  Well, I did it.  I REALLY put myself out there too.  I put up my bald pic.  I joked about how my low white blood cell counts keep me in on Friday night.  I put that I have a son with brain damage.  And in the first ten words I said that I have breast cancer.  Then I waited patiently, fully expecting to get the typical rounds of ridiculous emails, or worse, expected none at all.

What I got instead was the most humbling of gifts.  In less than two weeks of having my dating profile online....of having myself feel so exposed by my own honesty and vulnerability.... of sharing something so personal with people that do nothing but judge my worthiness in just a moment's glance... I was shocked and overwhelmed by hundreds of emails.  These emails did not consist of "Hey, I wanna hook up with a cancer patient".   They were genuine, respectful, thoughtful, compassionate emails from men that took time to be as honest with me as I was in my profile, emails that touched my heart and gave me even more strength.  These men could recognize that I wasn't putting up a front, and they rewarded me by showing kindness and integrity that is so often lacking in this digital dating age.  I'm beyond grateful for the affirmation that I can be seen and still be attractive, and not just physically attractive, but as a whole person.

I am learning how to be vulnerable.  It's nothing but a learning process that concludes this mid-life crisis four years in the making.  It's not about being perfect, but about being able to love myself despite all the imperfections.  I think that's been the biggest role of cancer so far in my life.  Not weighing me down with how I'm broken, but instead, allowing me to be honest with myself and to everyone else.  And whether I'm in the best of moments or my darkest, I'm not afraid to be alone, because I know I am loved just how I am.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Love the Brene Brown video, watched it last spring and it is life changing! Praying for you!