I’m scared to share, because I don’t struggle enough…but maybe there are others who feel like an imposter as well.
Back in 2019, I was finishing up college, waiting tables, and slinging weights at CrossFit. Everything seemed relatively normal, apart from the left side of my body losing a bit of its coordination. Everyone told me it’s probably a pinched nerve or that it’s not noticeable and it might be all in my head (spoiler alert: they were right!).
After graduating, I found a little call center job that would give me health insurance, which was all I really cared about in a job because of this concern regarding my coordination! I took it and counted down the days until my health insurance would kick in. Once approved, I decided I’d start with a Chiropractor, because I’m 22. There’s no way this could be something big. Once I saw the look of concern and confusion on the chiropractors face, I knew I had to look elsewhere… so I found a random internal care doctor that had availability and got an appointment.
The doctor was out, so I got the nurse practitioner instead, but she did everything right. She watched me walk, she saw my coordination differences, and ordered me an MRI. From there it was a whirlwind. I got a biopsy, had several discussions with medical providers, got the call that I have Anaplastic Astrocytoma, Grade III, got a boat load of other opinions, and then began the treatment shortly after. I remember starting chemo on a belly full of sushi after celebrating my 23rd birthday. My doc didn’t get me Zofran in time for my first dose…so I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about where that sushi ended up shortly after.
This is where I start to feel like an imposter. My experience feels simple when I compare it to others. I took chemo orally, in the comfort of my home. My radiation was simple and quick. My hair fell out underneath a layer of my curly black hair, so the loss was invisible to others… and I’ve not had any seizures, or taken a tumble… things just feel fine.
When I hear the misery of others through treatment and finding their diagnosis, I can’t help but feel like my experience is too simple. I feel like either the other shoe will drop soon or I don’t belong in a space to complain about this disease’s effect on my life.
I try to remind myself that regardless of symptoms or lack thereof, I belong here. Being 23 and hearing that you might not live to see 30 has shifted my entire life. Emotional trauma and confusion is still just as heavy as the physical. No matter what the cancer story…cancer is cancer. We all belong.
By: Margo Mitchell