Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Stigma Still Exists

A post I read from another blogger reminded me of an incident, and I’ve had a few, where I felt a slow bubbling anger rising inside. Yes, I’m a sensitive and kind person, but I get angry too.

One of the difficulties, and there are many, of having cancer young, is if you survive through the treatments and get to a place you feel well enough, you then need to find a way to work again. To build a career, or find that place in society where you can contribute, where you can thrive, as well as contribute.

I’m an honest person, so I was open about my diagnosis when applying for employment. Foolish? Yes. Down right stupid I suppose. I had great credentials and I was always liked, until I mentioned cancer. Employers want to know why there’s a gap, but they don’t want to know it’s from cancer.

One of the worst feelings I ever had was from an interview from a psychologist's office, no less. I figured with my medical background I would be great at booking appointments, and helping out in the office. When I was finished explaining how I was healthy now, the person would not even shake my hand. Instead, they backed away like they could catch “it” from me. I went home and cried. I learned to hide a part of myself that day. I filled in the gap on my resume with some other odd work I’d managed to do, and the person I worked for said they would supply my recommendation for a job well done. In effect, I felt I learned to lie that day. I haven’t really lied, but hid the gap; to me it’s always felt like lying.

Cancer was a hard thing to go through and I have to live with the thought of its return everyday. I feel angry I can’t be open about it. I feel angry to have to hide who I am, because whether I like it or not, cancer is a part of who I am, just like all those ambulance calls I’ve been on. One of the things I've learned is how we all squelch who we are inside at times, just to be acceptable, to conform, and to not rock the proverbial boat. I detest the fact we can’t just be who we are. So afraid of each other, so afraid to say the wrong thing, or make a mistake as you learn new things. People are held back by fear. Cripe, we can’t even reach out to one another down here. Even when there are no strings, no agendas, just being who we are, we have to be so careful. It saddens me. It won’t always be this way, but for now it down right stinks.