For the last eight years, I have been reluctant to add my voice to the chorus of other young adult cancer survivors. I have a list of reasons, of course, but what held me back were the overwhelmingly negative experiences I had with my doctors, my family and my friends. There was no hero for me to lionize. Cancer stories need heroes and happy endings because the details of the patient experience are too bleak on their own. Rare is the person who want to delve into that darkness.
In keeping silent, I have harmed myself and I have harmed others who also had a negative experience. I have been enforcing the cultural narrative of the grateful, positive cancer patient who finds happiness at the end of the rainbow. On paper, it does not appear that cancer slowed me down at all. I appear successful, possibly even accomplished. The truth is that I have a career that I do not want anymore, one that is psychologically painful to continue to do on some days because I feel stifled, bored, and like I am wasting my time. I have chest pains in the office, am grinding the hell out of my teeth, and feel generally depressed when I have to be there.
My voice does not sing through my current work. My voice sings out in joy when I can talk and write about what matters to me. I have no voice when I am in that office; I am mimicking someone else’s voice and living their life. It’s not my life. I have put events into motion to get new training and start a new career where I will use my voice. In the meantime, I will use my voice to tell my story and the many threads that continue to spring from it. I am here and now the voice that is flowing out of my fingertips is mine and mine alone.