By Amy Aubin
There is a parable I was told when I was young about a smart man and a foolish man who decided to each build a house on the shores of a far away sea. Both men sought the help of others in their opinions; the foolish man decided to not listen to the advice and warnings of others and built his house on a foundation of sand. The smart man heeded the warnings of others and built his house on a foundation of rock.
One afternoon, a storm hit and the man who had built his house on a foundation of sand washed away while the man who had built his house on a foundation of rock managed to whether the storm.
As an adult, I completely understand the parable is meant as a metaphor for the different calamities and afflictions that we as humans face such as illnesses, false accusations, bereavements, deaths, the loss of family and friends — all the ills in life that anyone could mention.
For me, this is where the metaphor changes. As a young adult, we are just “beginning” our lives; all these expectations on finding our companions, having children, settling down and having careers — where in that mix does cancer fit in?
Every relationship you have is put on the hot seat when you have cancer. Suddenly everyone has an opinion and somewhere in between cancer treatments, doctors appointments, maintaining a household and raising a child — a storm hits and it tests every relationship in your life.
Being the person I am, I put up a defense where although I was honest with my husband, I had also fallen into a trap of silence: holding back my feelings because of the mistaken belief that my true feelings and experience would be harmful — and a small piece of me was scared of the slight chance that maybe he couldn’t or didn’t want to handle it.
This instinct to protect those we love is human nature. Intentions are good: seeking to shield those we love from sadness, guilt, worry — but the end result is a heavy emotional burden and a profound sense of isolation.
A lot of these feelings fuel each other, making it more and more difficult to break out from this cycle of sadness, grief, isolation, guilt and worry. I think on some level, I thought I was sparing my husband from some of these emotions, when in reality, I was really accomplishing the opposite of its intent. What I learned is that when I risked opening up to him, willing to share my story, that’s when the healing started. The burden of shouldering the hard feelings was shared, tensions began to reduce and our emotional bond was further strengthened.
While it may seem noble to be the strong rock who showed no emotions, it is actually like building your house on a foundation of sand — a storm hits and washes away everything you have built on top of it. Ultimately, sharing in the fear and uncertainty helped to further build a foundation based on rocks, because being a rock takes everything you got.
Read Amy’s husband, John’s, take on relationships and cancer.