The summer of 2016, I was in the “prime” of my life. I had a prestigious research fellowship, I was going into my last semester of graduate school, I spent my weekends by the pool with my amazing friends, and I had a boyfriend, whom I absolutely adored. Keywords: I HAD a boyfriend.
Towards the end of the summer, on July 15th, my whole world would be changed forever. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, at the ripe age of 27. Within three months of being diagnosed, I had lost my breasts, my hair, and a lot of my confidence. On top of that, my relationship with my boyfriend was becoming strained.
When I was first diagnosed, my then-boyfriend told me that he would never leave me, that he wanted to be with me 50 years from now. I believed him. The way I felt about him, I had never felt about anyone else. I was very close with his family, especially his mom. I had spent holidays and birthdays with him and his family. His mom even called my dog her “grand-dog”. I loved them and they loved me. Everything would be okay, right? Not so fast.
Soon after I was diagnosed, we began to fight over everything. It seemed as if he didn’t agree with any decision I made; the decision to have a double mastectomy, the decision to go through chemo, the decision to shave my hair off. We even had arguments about sex. He became distant, emotionally and physically. Eventually, he said he was tired of driving back and forth, every other weekend (we lived an hour and a half apart, him in Raleigh and me in our hometown of Jacksonville) and that he had a life that he wanted to live, too. I felt like an inconvenience and somewhat guilty. He didn’t ask to have a sick girlfriend. He is young and he deserved to have fun. But in the back of my mind, I always had the selfish notion “but what about me?” I didn’t ask to have cancer.
To be honest, I wasn’t always pleasant to be around during my treatment. I had mood swings, I usually felt sick, and I began to feel insecure. Basketball games that he promised to take me to, he would take his roommate instead. His excuse was that I wasn’t bringing him joy, so he would rather be around his boys. In my mind, I felt as if he was embarrassed to be seen with a sick, bald cancer patient and he never said otherwise to make me feel any different. In fact, on numerous occasions, I got accused of “fishing for compliments”.
In March of 2017, two days before a second surgery and after a couple of months of him dodging my calls and threatening to break up with me if I came home to visit, my boyfriend broke up with me over the phone. I was devastated. Was I not good enough? Was I just damaged goods now? Was I not worth the fight? It completely shattered the last remaining confidence that I had. I felt unattractive, physically and mentally. The last remaining confidence that I had, was now shattered to pieces.
Out of all of the information that I was given about my cancer and about resources that would help me during treatment and after treatment, no one ever mentioned anything about what it would do to my relationship. Maybe I was naïve. Prior to being diagnosed with cancer, I always assumed that if I ever went through something extremely difficult or life-threatening, that I’d be surrounded by people who love me, doing everything they could to make every day a little better. That’s not too much to ask for, right?
It has taken a lot for me to be in the place that I am, right now. It has taken a lot of therapy sessions with my psychiatrist, a lot of late night texts with my friends, and a lot of soul searching. The cold, hard truth is that cancer is not pretty. In fact, it’s very ugly. It can change a person and drag a relationship to hell. Sometimes, those relationships can make it out of that very dark place, but in a lot of cases, they don’t. If a relationship cannot make it through cancer, it wouldn’t have made it regardless. The other truth is that you are worth it. No matter how many long nights you have, laying on the bathroom floor or how many times you need to hear that you are beautiful when you only have two pieces of hair on your head; you ARE worth that. You are worth fighting for.
Now, I thank God every day that during my darkest time, he showed me his true colors. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I found myself and I found my voice, again.
Thank you so much to the beautiful Krystle for sharing her story on My Cancer Chic. Visit her blog Here Comes the Sun for more of her amazing journey.