Setting Boundaries After Breast Cancer

May 23, 2023

We live in a world where everyone wants to be seen or heard by others, and that’s valid, but there’s also a need for boundaries. I was reflecting on the importance of boundaries in my own life after a Virtual Support Group with Rethink on the topic. I thought about how people want to be prioritized in other people’s lives, but neglect prioritizing themselves in their own lives. There’s a lack of self-compassion, which can lead to poor boundaries with others. There’s also a learned behavior of people-pleasing that plays a factor in stretching oneself thin and no one is there to catch you when it’s your turn. People say “yes” with the fear of losing someone if they choose to say “no.” But what I’ve come to learn through my experience with breast cancer is that self-compassion is important. Saying “no” when I don’t have the capacity or desire for something is important. Boundaries are important.

I know it can sound easier said than done, but I’ve learned that those who genuinely care for you will understand that you too need time to invest, nourish and pour into yourself with no hard feelings or animosity. This is the importance of setting boundaries and expectations from the beginning with the intent of all parties to gain an understanding how to love and care for each other, especially when going through something like cancer. Too often people don’t see this as people-pleasing because of their compassion, empathy or love for others, but the greatest love is when you’re able to love yourself first and then assist and help others with what you have remaining. Yes, you’ll be the villain to some and a blessing to others, but knowing that you stood up for yourself and put you first is more rewarding at the end of the day.

Before my diagnosis, I’d finally arrived from being the “yes” girl to “I’m sorry, but not today” or “let me get back to you.” Being honest… Yes, I lost friends and my associate group became smaller, but I chose to ultimately remain true to myself, knowing that I couldn’t afford to lose me. If I hadn’t already established certain boundaries, I believe my cancer journey would have been more difficult mentally and physically.

When we lack boundaries, it leaves room for others to manipulate, abuse and mistreat us when we’re deserving of so much more. Expressing our boundaries with our loved ones is actually signifying our desire to have that relationship while informing them how to care for and love us in the ways we need. People can’t be held accountable for what they don’t know and you’re not being selfish for asking for what you need, it’s a part of being a human.

I’d be lying if I said it’s all glitter and glam having and maintaining those boundaries because boundaries also push people away. That’s just the reality of choosing to honour yourself. But I’ve decided to not get flustered when people get upset with me because I’m enforcing my boundaries. I’ve learned that they’re not actually upset with me, but rather at the fact that I’m no longer accepting their behaviour and they now have to look at themselves. The hardest part about setting boundaries is actually standing on them. Remember… People often don’t like when you choose to love and care for yourself first and that’s their problem, not yours. — Syreeta

Read more from the community on boundaries here!

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Finding Support as a Single Person With Cancer
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