I do not want to complain about my job or to seem ungrateful for it. I am truly blessed – really and truly blessed – to have this job with this company. My health benefits are outstanding and I do not know where I would be in the midst of my health crisis without them. My colleagues have been kind to me and I am grateful that I had a position to come back to. In light of the current economic situation in the nation, I know that I am lucky and privileged to be right where I am.
But I have to be honest when I say… “Is this it?” I get up early and make my way to my fabulous and shiny downtown office, to sit at my fabulous and shiny new desk… and spend the next 9 hours doing a variety of tasks – some mindless, others a little more challenging – only to head home to sleep to wake up and do it again.
My job does not save lives. My job does not happily entertain people and take their minds on a trip. My job basically makes other people’s jobs a little easier. And that isn’t a bad thing at all. But I’ve been wondering…
Not a day goes by – actually not an hour – when I don’t blink my eyes and see the cancer clinic around me. I think about the faces of all the people I have seen and made cautious friendships with over these past few months and I wonder. What about their lives? What happens after cancer?
The nurses, technicians, doctors and students all work toward healing sick people. But the sick people themselves… what do they ultimately work toward?
I was discussing my cancer-journey with a colleague yesterday afternoon. I was trying to explain to her that if I were faced with the notion that I would have to have cancer in my lifetime but given the option to choose when I had it – there isn’t much that I would change. Well, one thing. I would have had a child before now. But even that one thing doesn’t fill me with regret.
When I review all that I’ve been through – and I review it often in my mind – I would not change one thing about my treatment so far. Even in the hardest days – those early days of chemo, the times I ended up in the hospital because of neutropenia, or because I kept passing out – I would not change a thing. I would still cry all those tears and laugh every chance I could.
I would do it all again. Every step. I never thought I would feel this way about something so cruel. But this is how I feel. I would still start the relationship that ended halfway through my treatment. I would still go along with the radiation treatment that took an extra 2 months I had not planned to spend at GW Hospital. I would still have my mother call the ambulance the day I passed out in the kitchen, not once but twice. I would still talk to several surgeons before agreeing to relinquish my entire breast. I would still do everything I have done, to save my life from cancer. But after doing it all again – if I had it to again – I think I would still be asking… “is this it?”
So now, I am sitting at work wondering… is this all that there is to life? A million people everyday scurrying to work to do jobs they may or may not like, to earn money to live a life that they really never get to experience because they are so busy working. It’s tragic really.
Meanwhile, in hospitals across the world, people are in various stages of dying. Most are wishing for another chance to get their lives back. I was that way. I sat in that reclining chair in the cancer clinic, week after week, begging God to heal me so that I could get my life back. And now that I have it back… it seems, woefully insufficient to be here. Sitting at the pretty desk, in the pretty office… answering phones, typing letters, responding to inquiries, conducting research… meanwhile, I know that just 7 blocks from here… people are sitting in chairs hooked up to tubes that they are praying will save their lives.
Is this it?
Medicine is not my calling. I know that. I am squeamish at the sight of blood – even after seeing it pulled out of my body and forced into little tubes week after week. Dealing with sick people is a calling of the highest order because sick folks are not always kind. They are often cranky and rude because they don’t feel well and they are scared. And many are worried about how to pay for the treatment that they desperately need to save or salvage their lives.
But is this it?
Did I pray and beg and rush to get back to my life only to find out that my life is one of fake deadlines and false emergencies? It is difficult to get riled up and excited about deadlines when my mind constantly fades back to people dying of cancer. Dying while in treatment no less.
I don’t know. I just have a big question mark over my head right now. Is this it? Is the end goal just about how much stuff I can accumulate with my job? Can I keep up with the neighbors or my friends?
It seems so ridiculous that I want a purse that costs nearly $500. But I do. It seems so ridiculous that I want a new Jaguar – but I do. (I can’t afford it but I do want it) It seems so meaningless that I work with the mindset of buying this and that and nothing more.
Meanwhile, just a few blocks from my office… people are dying.
I cannot believe that this… is... it.