The thing about having a medical history like mine is that it makes the idea of “inviting” new people into my messy world somewhat complicated. Whether platonic or romantic, it is a challenge to know when and how to tell someone, “I’ve had terminal cancer, but now I’m a walking #merckmiracle.” I suppose most people struggle with similar a conundrum when it comes to relationships — we want to be vulnerable to form a deeper connection with someone, but how do we disclose those things we are hesitant to share?
While we all have baggage that may keep us from making meaningful connections, I feel like mine is a little heavier these days. Let’s be honest, I went into cancer with pretty weighty bags — lack of self-confidence, trust, resentment, anxiety … I could go on. But the fact of the matter is that cancer has made all those issues a bit more cumbersome to navigate. So, the question becomes, when do I disclose my “mess” in a new relationship, whatever type that may be, and is the other person tough enough to handle it?
The logical answer is, “it depends.” The person, the circumstances, and the comfort level all control the timing. Honestly, I’m not sure I even let my relationships get to the door let alone deny entry. I have a completely unfounded expectation that the response to my truth will be that I am too much — too much of a risk for people to take a chance on, too emotional for one person to handle. And, to be told that I am “too much” is more than I can handle at this point in my life.
Of course, I’ve never tested this hypothesis, so how would I really know. Instead, I keep new people at arm’s length, or I don’t “put myself out there,” as they say. I keep things on the surface, so I don’t have to manage the perceived fall-out from exposing the mess. Not “inviting” someone in is all about self-protection and the idea of adding another layer of emotional “mess” seems like a lot to add to my already full plate of emotions.
I realize this may seem contradictory to the fact that I am very public about my struggles — blogging, news articles, radio interviews — and someone could easily go on the Google machine and find some of that information. True. But there’s something different about making a deeper connection beyond words on a screen.
At the end of the day, it’s about taking risks, letting go of assumptions, and having faith. If I can do those things, I’ll consider inviting you in, but you need to be tough enough to handle the mess.