Both sides now

“Maintain healthy boundaries.”

That’s a saying I hear from the women’s empowerment culture. It is generally good advice to follow. I am not the only woman who has had difficulty saying no to demands on my time and my life.

I don’t want to get roped into an obligation that doesn’t benefit me—to accept the guilt or shame someone might be trying to project on me to control me.

I’ve joined in exercises with groups of women practicing saying NO!

I am sitting here holding a no in both hands. No more medical appointments. No more chemo. No more cancer!

I’ve had enough. This is the last straw.


There was another scan, and another test.

Good news! The breast cancer shows no sign of having spread.

Bad news. A totally separate and unrelated cancer in my thyroid is discovered. They are pleased to tell me that I am cleared for surgery to happen two weeks after my last chemo dose.

What?! I want to be done. I don’t want another procedure!

I’d like to throw up a strong boundary wall to protect myself from this intrusion.

And I remember—

There are two sides to a boundary. Some things have to be kept out.

Some things have to be kept in.

In my case, the enemy in the form of cancer already breached my boundary. I wanted that out.

But since it came in, I want to protect myself by shoving it out.

I would not have chosen one cancer, let alone two.

Deep breath. It’s here now, so my boundaries have to let the right answer in.

I am working to be ready to let that surgery happen. That’s holding my true boundary.

That’s the kind of strong woman I choose to be. To say my best NO for myself. When it is hard and requires strength and sacrifice.

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