Permission to be selfish, saying no, and looking to the future

Crossing my stream this morning was a post by Cancer Curmudgeon about her post-cancer Mean Streak.  I read it and I thought, what has cancer changed in me? I’ve thought a lot about this lately.

There are three things that come to my mind: (1) I’m more selfish, (2) It’s easier to say no, and (3) I have a shortsighted view of the future.

First, I often feel that I’m being selfish. When I was going through active treatment, it was easy to give myself permission to be selfish. I often tell other women who are in treatment that they are allowed to be selfish – this message is especially important to mothers who tend to be constantly giving to their children such that they themselves do not get taken care of. During active treatment, it is important to let people take care of you. However, I’m past that. I’m in active recovery now. I still find that I am selfish. That is something that has changed in me. I’m empathetic to others, but I’m also aware of when it becomes a drain on me, and I shut that drain down. It is a defense mechanism that I need.

I am also finding it easier to say no. You would not get that by how much I’m doing. I still suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I end up signing up for too many things because I don’t want to be missing out on things – but on the other hand, if it is something I don’t really want to do, saying no is a whole lot easier than it used to be. My energy is still limited, it is finite, and so sometimes I just need to say no.

Unlike Cancer Curmudgeon, my priorities are clearer. This also makes it easier for me to say no. I’m still totally lost as to where I want to go next. My view of the future is very shortsighted. During active treatment my worldview/future view was to the next step in treatment. During active recovery my worldview/future view is to my next trip. I’m traveling for both vacation and to attend academic conferences – which is about the closest thing to ‘work’ travel that I do. I enjoy both, but both are also exhausting. My future view only goes so far as the next 3-4 months. I cannot yet think of my future beyond that point. I don’t know how well I will be. I don’t know how recovered I will be. I cannot think of plan much beyond that window right now. Perhaps this is one area where I’ll know I’m out of active recovery. That is, when I can think if my future beyond the next 3-4 months, then I know I will have recovered – whatever that means!


  • Becky

One Comment

  • One day at a time. While it may seem so simple, it is really the best any of us can do regardless of how we may want to or even think about planning and moving forward. I think your learning can have great implications for those of us who read them. Thank you.

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