Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Don't Judge Us Because We are Young, Or Interlude at the Walgreens Pharmacy

You can't judge a book by its cover.

That's what we learn from the time we are kids. When it comes to one's health status, however, this is not the case. In fact, we as a society tend to mistakenly think that young people just don't get sick.


This faulty assumption leaves those of us who were/are sick at a disadvantage. We are often not taken seriously at the doctor's office when we express concern for our well being. And we are certainly not taken seriously by pharmacy staff and customers when waiting for our medications to be filled.

Take this last Friday, for example. My doctor told me that I most likely would need surgery to correct a hernia resulting from my-reconstructive-surgery-resulting-from-my-double-mastectomy-resulting-from-a-scare-resulting-from-the-fact-that-I-had-breast-cancer. Nine years away from the original breast cancer diagnosis, and I'm still dealing with the repercussions of this disease. And I take medications to this day that are breast-cancer related.

I brought a couple of my many prescriptions to Walgreens that night, as I knew it was the hoppin' sort of place we sick sorts go to regularly. The line was long. After I dropped off my prescription, a nice elderly couple sitting waiting for a prescription refill were complaining to a 30-something woman about the perils of old age and how it stinks to be old.

And younger patients like me just want the chance to grow old.

Feeling a tad sad that I might need yet another surgery (checking soon with my gateway doctor to verify whether this is the case and whether I'm a bonafide surgeryholic), I did what any bitter person would do.

I eavesdropped.

And this couple went on and on to the 30-something about all their complaints. Normally, I don't say anything, but I couldn't help it: I told them that I was diagnosed with breast cancer 9 years ago and am still dealing with its aftermath. The 30-something looked at me with tears in her eyes, telling us that her mother died of breast cancer and that she (the 30-something) had a preventive double mastectomy ... just in case.

I congratulated her for advocating for herself and told her that she did the right thing for herself. Another young person dealing with her own demons.

The couple quickly walked away.

This lead me to wonder if they thought they had a monopoly on illness -- just because of their age.

Illness does not discriminate, and young people fall ill, too.

Seriously, I wonder if I will ever be lucky enough to reach old age. But for now, I choose to live life fully and completely -- and with optimism.

Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She writes about a potpourri of topics, including motherhood and her Chinese adoption experience at http://currents-living-discovery.blogspot.com/, and her cat Hemi blogs at http://www.catterchatter.blogspot.com/. Beth teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris University in the Chicago area. She has a guest posting on The World's Strongest Librarian at http://worldsstrongestlibrarian.com/3597/sharing-a-loved-ones-pain-guest-post-by-beth-gainer/.

She can be contacted at
bethlgainer@gmail.com and gainercallingtheshots@gmail.com.


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