Posting this one again

I am re-posting something I wrote in January. While each age group has specific challenges in cancer, putting patients into boxes based solely on age can be problematic. As someone diagnosed under 40, yet branded a survivor once over 40, yet unmarried and childless, I just seem to fall through a lot of cracks. I feel like I have little to nothing in common with people in my alleged age group these days, and certainly little to nothing with those younger and older. Feeling lonely about that today. I guess I have felt that way for a while. I’m tired of not only the health industry making these boxes based on age, but groups designed to help patients doing it too.

The Age Divisions

When I was first diagnosed a few days before my 39th birthday, I concentrated on just the big picture of breast cancer, and I did not really pay attention to issues of age…at first. I was lucky to be treated at a facility that, despite its location in a small-town and rural area, was evolved enough to have a resource for young adults with cancer. A special support group was started for us by my friend, diagnosed a few years earlier with ovarian and uterine cancer. Joining support groups is so the opposite of my personality, but I am so glad I joined this one. It helped offset the annoyance I still felt going into the infusion room and seeing the looks of surprise given by my fellow patients as they watched me, not my mother, sit in that chair each time (even though I was the bald one, go figure).

As I progressed through treatment and began interacting with the others in our support group, I have researched a few resources outside of our little local circle for “young adults with cancer”. There are some cool things out there, like Huffington Post’s Generation Why blog, Stupid Cancer/I’m Too Young For This! Foundation, and First Descent.

But I wouldn’t be the Cancer Curmudgeon if I did not have a complaint. Generation Why is a play on “generation y”; naturally I am “generation x”. First Descent and events produced by Stupid Cancer are for anyone with cancer ages 13-39. Since I was going through treatment the entire time I was 39, and I worked while in treatment, I did not have much left-over energy or vacation time for anything like that. Hell, even the SCAR Project, which I admire greatly, had a limit of age 35 for participants. So does that mean, since I am 41, I am no longer allowed to be a sexual being, upset at the scar and lack of nipple that cancer left me? I do not think this, but it seems that “society”, or certain organizations, or who knows else, is putting these parameters in place, once again trying to fit cancer experiences into these little boxes.

Cancer sucks no matter what number of years you’ve walked this earth. Maybe people should not be reduced to age brackets when it comes to cancer. At 41 I should be at a certain place in a career, married with 2 kids? Nope, I don’t fit the “profile”. No kids…so the worries of informing my kids, raising kids, and worrying about their future without me does not apply. But I am single and would like to find a husband, and hell yeah, I am worried that my “damaged goods” are going to impact my chances of finding a one, a problem I see discussed in articles targeted to those in their 20s and 30s. In addition, I am certainly nowhere near retirement, in fact, am still searching for my “perfect” job. In short, I know what my particular challenges are, and there may be someone out there in the same or a similar boat, or maybe not. I’m sure lots of patients cannot imagine facing my set of circumstances, the same way I am baffled when I read other bloggers’ posts of trying to go through college while in chemo, some without family support.

Look, I am not poo-pooing these resources I’ve mentioned, I am grateful they exist. I sort it out as I research & read, and just try to take what applies to me and move on. I know that the medical community and these various organizations have to create these age brackets in order to do the testing, compile data, and create their target markets. I especially would like the medical testing industry to expand their vision to include testing and results for each and every age bracket, so treatment can be improved and prevention discovered. It’s all about the stats and the odds, I know.

I just want everyone, especially the number-crunchers, to remember that the one common thread in cancer patients no matter the age is that we all want to survive and live well, and that there is a person behind each number or stat.

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Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

10 thoughts on “Posting this one again”

  1. CC, luv luv luv this post. Spot on girl! Stop the boxes, we’re all living breathing emotional sensitive beings not a damn number.

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    1. I guess it is silly to complain about falling through cracks when I have the big pink gorilla of cancers, but I am constantly reminded that no two cancers–no matter what body part–are the same, because of all the other things in life!

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  2. I have always hated anything that puts people in “boxes” and was so happy when my daughter’s nursery school teacher said my youngest thought “outside the box”!! If there were more people who did that, I think there would be less issues. All people are NOT alike and no matter how you try, you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. There are always going to be lots of people who don’t fit the mold and trying to treat people the same is the wrong mentality.

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  3. dear CC,

    can you hear the applause?! this was an excellent post. falling through the cracks while fighting cancer because of “boxes” is SO wrong. I hope your message echoes loud and clear to the box makers.

    much love, XOXO

    Karen, TC

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  4. I think we’re now “stuck in the middle.” Not classed as old but not young enough to be classed as young either… And it makes no sense. One of the worst things about being in this nameless, faceless middle group is that all the things the younger group have to contend with – sexuality, finding or retaining a partner, forging a career, etc are potentially even more difficult. Not only are we older (thus in the eyes of most media instantly less attractive, desirable or employable) than the 15-39 group, we also have poor body-image and self-doubt to contend with at a point in our lives when the norm is ‘gainfully employed and happily married with 2 kids.’ Its hard for people untouched by cancer to build or rebuild their lives in middle age because the expectation seems to be that we’re all “settled” by that point. For those of us touched by cancer or some other physically and emotionally disfiguring illness it is even more challenging.
    When my mother died of cancer in her mid forties I remember my father saying the world doesn’t care much for those in between – past the flourish of youth but too young to be sweet old ladies. He spoke of my mother’s situation but the same sentiments could be applied equally well to him as a widower – he wasn’t young enough or old enough for the world to take notice. He’s been on his own ever since. That was in 1996 and sadly I’m not sure attitudes towards those who are “in between” have changed enormously over the last 17 years.

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