The Amazing Suleika and In-betweenners

25 Apr

The New York Times has recently started publishing a new column in their Wellness section. The column is titled “Life Interrupted” and is written by an extraordinarily brave woman, Suleika Jaoaud. Suleika is facing Cancer in her 20’s and documents her journey.  Her writing is powerful and raw.  You can read her first article “Life, Interrupted; Facing Cancer in your 20’s” here http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/life-interrupted-facing-cancer-in-your-20s/?ref=health

 Something that Suleika wrote in her article really stuck with me. “Cancer magnifies the in-betweenness of young adulthood: You’re not a child anymore, yet you’re not fully ready to live in the adult world, either. After my diagnosis, I moved back into my childhood bedroom. And as I get sicker, I increasingly rely on my parents to take care of me. But at the same time, I’ve had no choice but to grow up fast. Daunting questions that most of my peers won’t have to consider for many more years have become my urgent, everyday concerns: How will I hold onto health insurance if I’m unable to work? Will I be able to have children? How long will I live?”

 I think many of us can identify with being an “in-betweenner”.  For 22 years I was luckily naïve. I went to school, I did my homework and hung out with friends. One of my biggest worries was how was I possibly going to wake up for my 9:00 am class. Then I turned 22 and became a college graduate and had to become an adult. As excited as I was to get my first job and business cards (not joking) I didn’t feel totally prepared to become a “real adult”. I think this is pretty normal.  All of this is heightened when you’re in a crisis.

 In the past few years I have had more than one serious surgery. Like Suleika, I temporarily moved back into my Mom’s house and she became my caretaker. At the same time I was over 18 so I was also in charge of making the ultimate decisions about my care. I was now responsible for signing consent forms, making health care decisions and ultimately deciding my fate.

 I have heard a similar sentiment from many friends who have had to go through difficult situations. Parents and loved ones no longer talk behind closed doors shielding us from unpleasantries. Instead we hear and see everything, sometimes even being pushed into the middle. Even when we catch a common cold it is normal to regress and want nothing more than our mom’s TLC and chicken soup. The challenge of growing up is learning to do stuff on our own but also being honest with ourselves and knowing when to ask for help.

 Which brings me back to Suleika. I HIGHLY suggest you read her new column. It has been a great lesson for this in-betweenner on becoming an adult with honesty, humility, poise and grace.

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