Saturday, March 15, 2008


Since my diagnosis almost two years ago, I have felt justified in receiving more than I give. I remember the moment that I realized that I was about to have to call in all of my favors, to play all of my trump cards, and probably to rack up a hefty debt of goodwill. In a lot of ways, I really did need to be the center of attention. I relied on my doctors, residents, and especially nurses, to not forget ANYthing in their efforts to keep me alive, and to attend to my comfort 24 hours a day. I relied on friends to help me catch up on classwork that I was forced to miss, to buoy spirits in and out of the hospital, and to provide the souding boards I needed to come to terms with my illness. I relied on lovers to help me not to feel irrevocably damaged and undesirable, to provide intimacy in a life that had suddenly become all too public, and to bring tenderness to a time of sharp steel and sticky plastic. I depended on school administrators to give me the time and flexibility I needed to recover. The Physicians Aid Society covered thousands of dollars worth of medical bills. I have depended on the sympathy of co-workers to forgive distracted mistakes. In many ways, I relied on my parents for all of the above, and for too many other things to mention. I have been the beneficiary of the collective resources and goodwill of the entire society.

These days, I go to work; I play tennis; I do the laundry; I shop for groceries. There have been enough clear CTs and lab tests in a row that I no longer go to bed expecting that I might find myself back in the hospital the next day. But I am not out of the woods. Now that my life is back in my hands, I am only beginning to recognize dysfunctional behavior patterns that have emerged, or been strengthened, as a result of all that has come to pass.

I think that I probably went through a huge regression during this traumatic time. Children are dependent because they are children. It is also possible to become childish because of dependency.

Losing control of so much of my life meant that I felt justified in using the rest of it as I saw fit. I got used to doing what I wanted, when I wanted to do it, and feeling fine about ignoring the rest. Somewhere along the way, it started to feel like I deserved to be the center of attention because I’m ME, instead of because everybody recognized that their contribution to my well-being was vital. But recently having hurt many people I love with self-absorbed behavior, I am belatedly realizing that I cannot remain a black hole for people’s good will forever.