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.