This is not the life I had imagined for myself. Not even close. Maybe even without cancer I never would have married or had kids, but the cancer certainly took those options away from me. I used to go to work every day and feel like there were some things I did really well. Not everything, but some things. I had good relationships with students and colleagues. I feel respected for the work I was doing. Other people counted on me for things, and that felt good. Now the option of a career is gone, too.
I live off the kindness and generosity of my parents. When I buy them gifts for holidays and birthdays, it’s really them buying these things for themselves. I will never be able to surprise them with a party or a trip or anything great for milestone events. Of course I wish I could throw them a big anniversary party and pay for it all myself. It’s not some kind of choice I’ve made not to. I don’t know what kind of mother I would have been, but I have no doubt that my mom would be a fantastic grandmother. Cancer has taken that option, along with any kind of independence I thought I would have as an adult. I didn’t choose any of this. It’s not how I want things to be.
As the years go by I have less and less in common with my friends. They are raising kids and building careers. Even in my Stage IV breast cancer support group, I’m the only one that is single, the only one without children. It is isolating and I feel like no one really understands what it is like to live day to day all alone with this disease on my back. There is pain every single day. There always will be.
Cancer has taken my peace of mind. There is always an upcoming scan or treatment or blood work. There is always the wondering when it’s going to return, in what part of the body, what will the next treatment be? Will I be doing gamma knife again this summer? Will my chemo be changing next month? And then there is the big anxiety. When I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what it’s going to be like to die. Will it be brutal and filled with suffering like it has been for some of my support group friends? Will there be unimaginable pain? Will I have to make everyone around me feel better by telling them that I am at peace with what is happening to me? Will cancer take the last shred of my honesty and my dignity?
Cancer has taken some really good people. I’ll never understand why those women are gone and I’m still here, almost 5 years later, beating the odds and still responding well to treatments. I know that I am lucky. I know I should be thankful. But sometimes, like today, I’m just not grateful for all that I have. Instead, I’m really angry that this has happened to me and I feel like a giant failure. I want my job back, I want a career, I want to be a regular adult.
I want to stomp my feet like a two-year-old because I can’t have what I want and it’s not fair. Life is not fair, I know. But cancer is a sneaky little cheat that won’t even give me a chance at anything even close to fair. And that really sucks.