I don’t talk very often about my son’s cancer or the time he spent treating for it. Mostly because he has moved on and doesn’t want to be reminded of it. Out of respect for his wishes, I chose not to become involved in organizations like Relay for Life, or other fundraising or support groups. This was his experience first, not mine and he needed to be the one to call the shots.
It has been three years since he has been declared officially cancer free. A total of eight years since he was originally diagnosed. And at times it feels like a blur, or even like it never happened.
But it did happen, and while it was his experience, I was there with him every step of the way. And I learned some things. I learned how to take care of a child with cancer. I learned how to juggle the needs of the family so that none of my other kids felt neglected. But mostly, I learned how to lock down my emotions.
I learned how to be strong, capable and independent. And the more help I was offered the more I resented it. I did not want help. I was perfectly capable of handling this situation and anything else that came my way, thank you very much. And how dare you insinuate that I can’t handle this by offering assistance. Or at least that’s how I took it.
My son’s cancer is gone, long gone, but the lesson I learned…that to be vulnerable is to be weak, has been firmly cemented in my mind. I still become obstinate about not needing help. I can do this thing called life on my own. And I have largely managed to get that message across to everyone.
Last night was date night. My husband and I went out for dinner and during the course of the evening he shared with me that while he admires my strength and independence, he wishes I would let my guard down with him. He wants to help me. He wants to support me. I, of course, responded by quickly wiping away the one small tear that formed in my eye, and changed the subject.
But this morning I’m thinking heavily about what he said. Does he really want me to let my guard down? To be vulnerable? Has my unwillingness to do that created a wedge between us that keeps us from becoming even closer? There’s a certain amount of trust and faith that goes into being vulnerable. And I wonder…is being vulnerable a weakness or is it a strength?