We’ve all heard these statements in some shape or form.
“You’re in your 30’s (or 40’s) and have no children? You’re wasting your time.”
“You still believe he/she will change? You’re wasting your time.”
“You’re still talking about cancer even though you’re in remission? You’re wasting your time.”
I don’t completely disagree that I’ve wasted some time in my life. I guess everyone feels this way at some point. There’s always the “wasting time” or “losing an opportunity’” regret floating inside people’s head. But who defines this notion of ‘wasting time’ anyway? I believe each individual does.
Have you had conversations about wasting time since your cancer diagnosis? I have. I’ve also done some reflecting about choices I’ve made prior to my diagnosis. Some people have said that my having been diagnosed should make me concerned about not “wasting time.” They specifically pointed out my past relationships that went nowhere – by their definition – and my not having built a family at this point in my life as examples.
There are many women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who get cancer and haven’t built a family yet. And yes, I am one of those patients who has been revisiting my past and my choices and questioning everything. I’ve had regrets about where my youth went. I’ve thought about not having children and having been stuck for too long in past relationships. But, at the time I didn’t care that I didn’t know where my relationships were heading. I was young.
This wondering about whether or not I’ve wasted time didn’t start until I got breast cancer. That’s when people started questioning. And I started questioning myself. “You know, I shouldn’t have wasted all that time. I should have had a kid before I was faced with all these obstacles to becoming a mother” — such as not being able to carry my own child because I am on Tamoxifen – a medication to help keep my cancer at bay.
But, beating myself up for all this isn’t going to change a thing. That, in itself, would be wasting time.
And, I ask myself, what if I never had gotten cancer? Would I be focused so much on the possibility that I’ve wasted time? Probably not.
When I was younger, I thought I had many years ahead of me to build a family. I never thought of time. Or illness. I wanted to enjoy my life and build my career before committing to something as serious as building a family. I was not expecting the uninvited visitor that is cancer to come into my life at such a young age. Now, I feel stuck in a different way. I can’t go back to the life I had before cancer but I also feel like I can’t move forward with normal plans that other women in their thirties have. I find myself having to adjust to a lot of unwanted things, in a place where I no longer feel safe.
I still have people asking me when I am planning to get pregnant – saying that I am getting old – even after I’ve explained to them that I am still undergoing treatment for breast cancer. I know that I might not be able to get pregnant. It’s hurtful to be reminded of this. It’s like they can’t accept my reality and aren’t able to adjust along with me. But what’s even more hurtful is the fact that some talk to me as if I didn’t make the “right” choices before my cancer diagnosis. It is not my fault cancer happened to me. I also had my right, as a woman, to not get pregnant or married if I felt I wasn’t ready to do so. At the end of the day, I am the one who will live with the decisions that I make.
There is no learning curve when it comes to life. Everyone’s situation is different. I agree that it doesn’t hurt to examine one’s life from time to time. But the conclusions we reach about time need to come from us.
There’s an old quote that I like, sometimes attributed to Bertrand Russell: