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The Hardest Thing About Having Cancer In Your 20s or 30s Is…

cancer in your 20s

…the vulnerability that it creates.

Brené Brown is a researcher storyteller who focuses on shame, connection, and love.  In her talk, The Power of Vulnerability, she says, “shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection.  Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?…In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”  This act of being seen makes us vulnerable to the outside world…to their opinions, perspectives, and ideas.  Having cancer in your 20s creates a lot of vulnerability…many many opportunities arise during cancer for people to see us when we are not at our best…when we aren’t in control, don’t have our makeup on or even any hair.

In my own life, I have experienced nothing more vulnerable than dealing with my mom’s cancer and then dealing with my own.  If I was going to stay connected to my environment and to the people around me, eventually people would need to really *see* me when I wasn’t feeling well…when I wasn’t at my 100% best.  Following my cancer diagnosis and into my survivorship, my friends were eventually going to see me at my anxious and agitated states.

Can my new friend deal with something as serious as my cancer?

Will my spouse think that I’m too needy?

How will admitting that I’m not feeling well or not performing at 100% affect my work environment?

Should I tell someone that I’m starting to feel lumps again?

Will my friend realize that this cancer journey isn’t over for me post-treatment?

You know what I learned though?  If we’re willing to be courageous and keep on living, continuing to seek out connection from those around us even with our heightened vulnerability, we can continue to find belonging and love from our environment.  Having cancer in your 20s or 30s is pretty scary, obnoxious, and exhausting (among other things…)…saying that it isn’t in order to make a friend will probably lead to a difficult and superficial friendship where you’re now not allowed to ever be afraid, where you’re not allowed to ever be annoyed, where you’re not allowed to be unavailable.

…having cancer in your 20s or 30s and not *ever* being able to be afraid, annoyed, or unavailable to a friend seems down right impossible to me.  Embrace your vulnerability, seek love and connection wherever you can.  Keep on living!

P.S. Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count