I exchanged a few e-mails with a friend from college recently, just saying hi, catching up, talking about plans. He’s been working in Australia for a year and is talking about traveling to New Zealand now, then maybe Thailand, just seeing where the wind takes him. It’s not just him–I have lots of friends from high school and college who have ended up all over the world or even just all over the country.
I used to be with them. My big move to Chicago after graduating from college got me out of Southern California. I saw the Midwest. I experienced winter. I got by just fine for three years without a car. I always thought I would probably move back to California eventually, but while I was still young, why not experience living somewhere else? Boston? Washington D.C.? Portland? Seattle? Exotic San Francisco? Even… overseas? Then grad school came along and even though when I sent my app to LA I was fairly sure that I would never in a million years want to actually go to LA, it turned out that LA had the best program I got into and how could I turn it down? So I ended up in LA. And then I ended up with cancer. And now?
I guess i’m stuck.
A popular topic of conversation among my classmates this year, our last year in grad school (though I will likely stay longer), is, “Do you want to stay in LA?” In my head I always say no. But out loud, I say, “Yeah, I think so.” I talk about moving east maybe, or further west, depending on where I end up finding a job. I talk about finding “my” place in this confusing city where I don’t yet feel at home. I talk about liking my proximity to San Diego, where I grew up, and my parents, and Santa Barbara, where I went to college.
The real reason, of course, is that I can’t leave my doctors. I am still seeing my oncologist once per month–usually more. I see my surgeon every few months. And I have a bunch of other doctors on the back burner in case I need them. An endocrinologist in case my hormonal symptoms return. A heptologist in case I get a liver transplant. Neuroendocrine cancer, as my oncologist likes to say, is a multidisciplinary cancer. My doctors really know their stuff about pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. From what I’ve read, i’m lucky to have been diagnosed correctly pretty much right off the bat, let alone have doctors who have seen them and treated them before.
I know things change. If my condition becomes more stable, I probably won’t have to see my oncologist as much. If I get a transplant, I might be “cured.” If I live for a long time, my doctors will retire. I am getting ahead of myself.
I just see people my age on Facebook traveling the world, living for a time in other countries, trying out different jobs, maybe (gasp) going without health insurance. I’m jealous that they can afford to be so carefree. Maybe I would have never done any of those things. But I always had the option to do what I wanted with my life. Now, I don’t. My tumors run my life. Everything else comes second.
I don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up. But I know I always need to be near my doctors. And I always need good health insurance.