kiddoHere’s something about me: I love interacting with old people. If I get invited to a gathering, you’ll always see me talking to the older crowd. Being someone who was raised by her grandparents, I always had an appreciation for the stories they had to share and the memories they had collected. As a kid, listening to them, it gave me a desire to want to grow old myself —of course, without having a real awareness or ability to understand the full implications of getting old and dealing with what would lie ahead in life.

When I was in my teens, I volunteered at a home for the elderly near where I lived. I gained a lot from that experience. I learned about the power of companionship and the importance of being a good listener. These residents built an environment for themselves, with what they had. Some demanded more than others. I saw that it was difficult for some of them to accept their reality. And others adjusted just fine. Just like everybody else.

I recall this very old man who always called me “kiddo.” I didn’t mind it. In fact, I liked it. At the time. I felt like a kid then anyway, despite my challenging life circumstances at the time. (Struggling to adjust to being brought to the United States to live when I was a teenager.)

That was a long time ago. Now, recently, someone else called me “kiddo.” I felt very different about it this time. The name suddenly wasn’t fitting anymore. This time, it hit me hard and it became clear that, deep down, I feel really old. Mostly because of everything I’ve been through related to my health.

“I am older than you think,” I said to the 60-something year old guy who called me kiddo. He laughed and asked, “how so?” “Do we really need to get into the details?” I replied with a forced smile. When he saw the tired look on my face he realized what I meant. Then, we proceeded to talk about something else. The guy is not totally aware of my hardships but he knows about my cancer diagnosis and the pain I continue to endure.

Perhaps I am overly sensitive. I am sure the guy only meant I was much younger than he was when he called me “kiddo.” And maybe he even sees himself as a really old man compared to me. But the thing is, I am no kiddo anymore. And more than ever, I am very aware of what lies ahead. I have very complex decisions to make about my life – some that probably people his age might never have had to make, not under the same circumstances at least.

And here’s another thing: I keep losing friends. Frequently. I realized recently that I am a lot like my fiance’s parents — who are over 70 and start every day looking in the obituaries to see who they know. In a way, I’m already doing that myself — keeping track of patients I’ve come to care for or reading about all the other bad things that happened in the world over night, as soon as I wake up each day. And yes, I am in cancerland, where, unfortunately, bad news is expected. Not to mention, I actually need an oncologist – in my 30’s. It still sounds surreal to me. This ain’t no kiddo’s life!

All this cancer experience has aged me, both physically and mentally. And real fast, too.

In a way, I feel a lot like those old people from the home I volunteered at. I am still trying to adjust to my reality — how long does it freaking take? Although I am not the same age as these elderly people were, I still feel pretty beat up. But I am lucky to have companionship and a great listener: my fiancé who is also my caregiver. He puts up with all my demands and needs. And though he’s older than I, he never calls me kiddo — although he admits that he has said it, maybe with envy, to a few people who strike him as young and free and unburdened. I confess I’ve felt the same way too.

I wish I felt like a kiddo again. I mean, I still want to grow old, but at a much slower pace.

About thesmallc

I'm Rebeca. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. But there's more to my story: I am an animal lover. I love to cook. I have a wonderful fiancé who doesn't mind walking my rocky path with me. We currently live in New York. ---------------------------------------- “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
This entry was posted in Awareness, c World, Coping after cancer, Loss, Reflections, Self Awareness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to “Kiddo”

  1. Mandi says:

    There will always be someone who thinks of you as a kiddo based on time gap. I call my little brother kiddo in a loving way (it is much nicer than some of my other nicknames). I do understand the feeling of aging that come from treatment. They say it ages your body by about 10 years and I haven’t seen a mental study, but I am sure it is fairly commonly shared among all cancer survivors!

    • thesmallc says:

      Hi Mandi! It’s true, there will always be someone who sees you as much younger than they are. I was told the same, that treatment ages your about 10 years. Mentally, though, it feels like it’s much more. What can we do? These are the cards we’ve been dealt. I hope you’re feeling well. xoxo

  2. There is this other weird age aspect in CancerLand I found. I was at this retreat after I completed treatment and all the other attendees were 1) older than me in actual years but 2) just beginning their cancer “journey” (I dislike that word too). They were a bit patronizing to me, when I had the actual knowledge and cancer life experience which made me “older”. It is very weird and discombobulating.

    • thesmallc says:

      You are so right! It does feel strange. Of course, I am not saying only older people should get cancer, but it is more expected (now you got me thinking about what’s normal vs. what’s expected). Not that I would rather have gotten cancer at a much older age either. Why can’t cancer just disappear? Wishful thinking. xoxo

  3. Just the other night, I told an acquaintance that although she was older than me in age, I was older than her. She said, “Age is a state of mind.” I replied, “No, it’s a state of body.” And that state of body really messes with your mind.

  4. nancyspoint says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    Well, compared to you (and Mandi and CC), I am old. Ha. But seriously, I have aged significantly since my cancer diagnosis and yes, I do blame cancer for much of it. It irks me to no end whenever someone suggests most of it can be chalked up to normal aging. I know when things started going downhill for me physically. And it was a rapid decline. Ugh… I hate that you have to deal with all this cancer crap at such a young age. The fallout is horrendous, and you will be dealing with the impact of your cancer diagnosis for such a long time due to your young age at diagnosis. Cancer is so nasty and so unfair no matter what your age. Anyway, another terrific post. I relate. Thank you. And btw, I love Mandi’s comment. “There will always be someone who thinks of you as a kiddo based on time gap.” That’s what my MIL thinks of me, I’m quite sure. Ha.

    • thesmallc says:

      Nancy, I can relate to your comment about the collateral damage and people/doctors blaming it on ‘aging’. I am in my 30’s and already get comments like that. It sounds a little dismissive. cancer is awful and so are the treatments. And yes, it sucks that anyone, at any age, has to face this terrible disease. I do wish we had better treatment options, at least, after so many years. The aftermath is no fun. xoxo

  5. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  6. The Accidental Amazon says:

    Oh, yes…feels like aging is accelerated. I get so tired of people saying, “well, you are getting older…” when I still struggle with the long term side effects of treatment. *sigh*

    • thesmallc says:

      Kathi, I feel the same way when people dismiss the collateral damage. But I never stop talking about it. I always bring it up to my doctors. We def. need more resources to help us cope with the damage. xoxo

  7. bethgainer says:

    Hi Rebecca, I’ve been off the blogosphere grid and am glad to be catching up on your blog. You and I have so much in common! I also feel comfortable with elderly people. For the first few years of my life, my paternal grandmother raised me Mondays to Fridays while both my parents worked. I was close to her, as well as my maternal grandparents — and all my grandparents’ friends. I also volunteered at a home for the aged.

    Like you, I have also aged since cancer diagnosis and treatment — physically and psychologically. I’ve grown old before my time. And I’m sick of doctors telling me that I feel this way because I am getting older. No, I was so unbelievably energetic until cancer. I blame cancer for a lot of my problems.

    I’m sorry you had cancer; it sucks at any age, but those of us who had to deal with it at a young age have the unfortunate experience of feeling way older before our time. All I can say, is the best thing we can do is take the best care of ourselves as we can.

    Take care, my friend.

    • thesmallc says:

      Hi Beth! We do have a lot in common. I used to blame cancer for everything but then realized that it was distracting from another truth – the treatments. Yes, cancer sucks but I am also frustrated at the fact that, after all these years, we haven’t been able to come up with better treatments (with less harming side effects). I now blame chemo and Tamoxifen for a lot. Yes, they have helped with keeping me alive, and I am grateful for that, but the tradeoffs aren’t fair. Nothing is fair. And yes, all we can do is try to take care of ourselves. To advocate for ourselves. Sometimes deciding between treatments and quality of life is very difficult. I was supposed to take a break from Tamoxifen, but I am too afraid to. Yup, cancer sucks too. You stay well, my friend. xo

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