I am on a rocky road right now, and not the good kind with marshmallows and nuts. Yesterday when I retrieved my mail, I discovered an invitation to a research study on fertility in young female cancer survivors. Since my ovaries have been borked (a very technical term) since my radiation treatment, I read on with interest. The invitation was from the academic medical center where I saw Dr. Second Opinion last year, but the letter says my information was obtained from the California Cancer Registry. I am aware of the registry, but thought it only contained demographic information that was not linked to my name. I was wrong about that. I went on the website and read that when I was diagnosed with cancer, I should have been given information about the registry. I didn’t exactly get a “Welcome New Cancer Patient!” packet from the folks in endocrinology, with all of the downplaying and psychological gamesmanship that occurred.
I sign up for every research study I am eligible for. This was no exception. I just wasn’t prepared to feel so awful after completing the questionnaire. I think I am 15 years older than the women they used for their stock photos; I am invisible to men and haven’t had sex in three years. I am also OLD to the reproductive world. My favorite part was when it asked for the name of my oncologist. I looked at the people on staff of this study, and again, it was all very young looking people with MPH degrees from one of the universities that rejected me last year. None of them knew that not all cancer patients have oncologists. Yet, because my GRE math score wasn’t a certain number, I wasn’t good enough to have an opportunity to earn this degree. I have also applied numerous times to work as a patient navigator at this institution and I cannot even get an interview. I thought the letter was a job rejection when I first saw it in my mailbox.
I cried last night, then again this morning, hunched up on the floor sobbing. I’m old, no one loves me, and I have done nothing of meaning over the last nine years. I am an intellectual person; information gathering is how I deal with everything. I never met a problem I didn’t think I could read my way out of. This has been the sole exception. There’s no book about what happens to a young women in her late 20s who is already undergoing a shift in who she is and who then has this massive chasm rip her life apart. I’ve tried to close it, build a bridge across it, find a way around it and I am still here, looking out over that chasm. I had no solid footing in the world to return to. I was trying to figure that out and create it when this happened. I kept trying to create it and failed. My career isn’t it, but it was the closest thing I had to that at the time so I have hung on for dear life. It’s the only constant. The man who left me when I moved to LA wasn’t it, though losing him was a huge loss for me. Earning an MSW or an MPH by embracing the chasm wasn’t it.
I have no idea who I am, but I know cancer is not part of it.
Starting today, I am giving up using my cancer experience as a way to find my footing in the world. I am getting rid of all my books. I will finish my current patient navigator course only because I have already paid for it, but I am not taking anymore. There will be no further applications to MSW or MPH programs. I will not apply to anymore navigator positions, or hospital positions in general. I’ve applied for 15 in the last few months and not had one interview. None of this is working and I am not investing any more time in it.
There are some things that I know are central to me: writing, London, seeing more of Europe, reading, hiking, being active, going to concerts (there are so many shows I want to see this summer). I always wanted to study in Europe and I am interested in history, cultural heritage, museum studies, and public history. If I am to get more education, that’s where it will go.
No more health, cancer or activism. It’s made me miserable, so I am purging as much of it from my life as I realistically can.