In one of the dozens of books I have read about cancer, illness, and post-traumatic stress disorder over the last nine years, one of them said, to paraphrase, “You will know when you have moved on because you will be tired of telling your own story.”
A couple of weeks ago, I was participating in the online discussion in the patient navigator course I was taking. We were discussing a time you perceived your doctor as good or bad, and why. Everyone (I am not exaggerating) had beautiful stories about good physicians filled with care and humanity who took care of their parents or were trusted colleagues. I threw a grenade into the waxing poetics and painted a portrait of ambivalence and mediocrity, using my current endocrinologist as my subject. It was met with the usual avalanche of careful “I’m sorrys” and all I could do was roll my eyes in response.
This. This was the moment I was promised would someday come to pass, by that sentence from a book I cannot remember, by Dr. Overinvolved when he said, “It will fade with time.”
Maybe Dr. meant a year, or three, or five. But it took nine. NINE.
Let that sink in.
Nine years of seeking a resolution in books, in other people, in careers, in classes, through writing, in graduate degree applications, in fluid definitions of myself. Each one of those pursuits counts as a layer, a connector, a marrying force in a quest for answers to questions I never fully defined. I wasn’t looking to answer “Why me?” I have very sound theories for that one. I was trying to unpack everything I have been carrying around: medical trauma; transference/counter-transference; the fine line between being friendly and being a creeper; the meaning behind serious life events; our obligation, or lack thereof, to share what was learned through our own experiences to help others; and cancer. Oh yeah, this discounted, yet life-changing disease we call thyroid cancer that promises we will be over tested for every other form of cancer for the rest of our lives; that guarantees we will be condescended to by physicians and others who do not understand how goddamn tired we are. Are you tired? Because I am.
Now, as I write this, there is an unusual May thunderstorm descending on coastal Los Angeles where I have made my home for the last four years. The rain is perfect in its force, in its cause, and in its effect. A mile away the 405 has come to a complete stop. No one asks, why does the rain make that noise when it hits the pavement, or why does that rain saturate my curls? It’s rain. It’s water. And we accept that without question and go about our day.