Since you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, chances are you’ve found yourself wanting to say ‘no’ more often. Your energy’s low, you feel like crap most of the time, and you feel the need to protect yourself more strongly than ever.
Unfortunately, most of us have been taught that ‘no’ is rude or disrespectful.
While ‘yes’ is celebrated for its up-for-anything positivity and perfect politeness, ‘no’ gets slammed for being hurtful, stubborn, and selfish.
This usually means that even when every fiber of your being is screaming ‘NO!’ in response to a question or request, you find other things to say. Maybe it’s “that sounds fun,” or “let me check my schedule,” or - if you’re feeling particularly brave - “I’ll think about it.”
Before I had cancer, I found myself in these kinds of situations ALL THE TIME. I was a chronic people-pleaser and I cared more about other people’s feeling and priorities than my own. I put other people first 9 times out of 10.
While I enjoy being spontaneous, I noticed that I’d spent so much of my life saying ‘yes’ to people and things that I’d lost myself in the process. I believe this was one of the key, deeply rooted, causes of why I got sick. On a subconscious level I didn’t value and love myself as much as I cared about others.
These days - thanks to cancer - ‘no’ is one of my favourite words.
It keeps me honest, keeps me safe, keeps my priorities in check, and keeps me in focus. Pretty powerful little thing, isn’t it?
For me, learning to say ‘no’ was never about being disrespectful or mean. It was simply about having my own voice and being able to stand up for myself in any situation. Because, at its core, ‘no’ is all about boundaries. And trust me, you need those if you’re going to navigate your cancer journey with any sense of empowerment.
This fact really hit home for me when I started dealing with my doctors. I was diagnosed in mid-April and still had to work at my demanding corporate job until June, when my second, major surgery was scheduled. This meant all doctor visits, follow-ups, scanning, and tests needed to be scheduled around my work and business travel. Unfortunately, my practitioners had other ideas.
They were working under the assumption that my whole life was now about cancer and expected me to drop everything to make my appointments. I had to take a stand.
At first, saying ‘no’ was a challenge, and always came with a long-winded explanation or justification. As time went on, I started feeling more at ease and the ‘no’s began to flow.
These days, “No” is my full sentence.
Learning to say ‘no’ has helped me streamline my priorities in a way that’s allowed me to live my life in the most rewarding way possible. For me, ‘no’ says, "This is who I am; this is what I value; this is what I will and will not do; and this is how I will choose to act."
Saying ‘no’ creates more space for saying ‘yes’ to the things that are really important.
And boy, is it liberating!
If you want to learn more about the power of ‘no’ and how to wield it, join the Truth & Dare Cancer Facebook group. It’s a safe space where I and lots of other like-minded women with cancer hang out and share our struggles, tips, and helpful tools.