Part 1 here.
Once I was a scientist, and a professor, and sometimes a writer.
I still work full-time. But now I am also a mommy, a cook, a housekeeper, and a daughter of a father dying of cancer and a mom who has been walloped by neoplasms too.
In the space of two years, my life has dissolved, and some days I feel like I have, too. I wonder: Where is the old me, who wandered around the US and world going to professional conferences? Who always knew there were two parents who cared whether she was home at night, whom she could always call?
And I am a doctor’s wife. I’ve hesitated even to write it as I feel a little queasy identifying myself as an appendage to someone else. I’ve collapsed into a footnote to other people. “Real” doctors (I am a Ph.D.) save lives, and sometimes confronted with the gravity of that I wonder what the point is in my own career; especially having two parents with cancer, medicine feels so much more important than teaching science or writing, or anything else I will ever do. An ordinary scientist writes papers that nobody reads. But even an ordinary doctor has a huge impact on people’s lives. I hope that my growing feeling that nothing but medicine matters is a fallacy, and jobs can be important without being urgent.
Here’s a link to a collective blog by other doctor wives: http://doctorwives.blogspot.com/
There’s a whole online community of medical spouses out there, but I feel just as out of place there as I do everywhere else. Most of the blogs I ran across were by devoutly Christian SAHM’s much younger than myself, writing about how they coped with loneliness by telling themselves that their doctor husbands were working hard out of an eventual desire to provide for them. In my case, I have my own career, we aren’t in debt, neither do I need my husband to be a provider nor do I wish to depend on him that way, and he’ll be going into a specialty that isn’t well compensated anyway.
Still other bloggers write about how they remember falling in love and the memory of the person they fell in love with motivates them. We were Indian and had–not exactly an arranged marriage–but close, so I don’t have those memories to fall back on either.
I recognize that I sound really negative here, but I am really just fumbling in the dark for that motivational thought that will work for me when I am alone at night, as I am sure there is one. I know I have to get through this horrible time for my daughter, but the thought that I no longer have the luxury of collapsing because I am now responsible for someone else–that is even more stress.
My husband tells me repeatedly that it’s reassuring, emotionally, to have a doctor in the house, and that it’s good for family. How his whole time growing up he never had to see anyone outside the family for medical services. I’m sure it’s useful to have a doctor at home, but it’s reassuring to have a plumber at home too, and folks survive without them. And because he isn’t an oncologist, my husband’s medical training hasn’t helped my father or my mother in the slightest.
Insurance pays for my family to see doctors. What I need (and what isn’t covered by Aetna) is someone close to me to listen when I say how much it hurts to watch my father succumb to brain cancer and dementia, how out of the blue this is and how I thought things like this happened to “other people.” How I can’t bring myself to make long-term plans any more because I feel like it might happen to me any day. How painful it is to watch my parents suffer so much. But someone who is around illness and death fifteen hours a day and thinks that advanced cancer is normal is perhaps the person least able to understand what it’s like to be on the other end of the medical device–supposing he were even home to understand, I mean. That’s why I have this blog. It isn’t why I started this blog, but it’s why I keep it going.
I have no idea how my life is going to work out, or how I will get through the next few years.