You sit in front of me in dismay. The oncologist told her that everything was going well and that she did not have to come back until six months later for a check-up. She knows she should be happy, but she feels lost and afraid.
The past two years have been tough. She was diagnosed with cancer when she was thirty-two years old. Fortunately, a very treatable form, but there was no question of a quick fix. After a period of uncertainty about the severity and prognosis, long periods of operations, chemotherapy and all kinds of examinations followed. I went from a young middle-aged woman to a woman whose day job was to get through the day and go from round of chemotherapy to round of chemotherapy. As her friends built their careers, got married and had children, her world got smaller and her life consisted of enduring pain, uncertainty, nausea, itching and above all waiting. In examinations, treatments, results, diagnosis, and follow-up plans.
And now she was told she could come back to life again. Back to work – but she had lost her aspirations in the legal profession and had no idea yet where she could find new meaning. Meanwhile, their relationship has fallen apart – her hospital rhythm turns out to be incompatible with the rhythm of the ambitious thirties. They failed to combine their disparate rhythms into a common dance.
Her friends were all sympathetic and considerate, but she felt emotional distance. She saw the discomfort in their eyes. They hid from her their professional successes and did not dare to share their enthusiasm for pregnancy.
But he was there for her the whole time. He was standing next to her at every step explaining what was going on and what’s next. He understood what she was going through and expressed her confused feelings. Her oncologist.
Now show her the door. Half a year without it. She is afraid, because the world of the hospital with its fixed system has become hers. You feel alienated from the outside world.
So here it is – wrecked. We discuss her grief together. How she will miss her oncologist. How he became her announcer and came to love him. No wonder it’s hard to let go of him after she’s gone through such an intense journey, being her boyfriend. It is an unequal and strange love she feels for him, the doctor, and the patient, but it is love nonetheless.
She welcomed her back into the outside world and urged her to gently sample life outside the hospital once more. She will have to find her place again uncomfortably, but I tell you: it will be fine.
Rinske van de Goor General Practitioner
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