Identity Crisis

Hi. I’m Rochelle, and I’m having an identity crisis.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest (pun intended), I’ll explain.

Experiencing an identity crisis is one of the least talked about parts of cancer treatment, yet it’s more common that many realise.

Of course, I fully appreciate it’s not just cancer patients or survivors that experience an identity crisis. But hey, it’s my blog…

In the cancer world, they talk about the different identities that can be experienced after receiving the diagnosis. The first identify is ‘patient’. As a patient, our identity is defined by active treatment. It’s a full-time job, and the job description is very clear: endless appointments, scans, waiting for results, taking drugs, losing hair…the list goes on.

And then (for the lucky ones) comes the next identity – ‘survivor’. Coming through the other side of treatment we are changed people. Physically and mentally. For me, I felt strong. I felt I had a sense of purpose as a survivor. To get fitter again. To take less crap. To be a better person. All of these driven by my identity as survivor.

But five years post cancer (the five-year blog is still coming) the survivor identify is fading from the exterior. It will always be within me, but I don’t feel as connected to it. Some hold onto this identify for the rest of their lives and it lives front and centre in all they do. But for me, I don’t want to be defined by it. So now what?

Insert identity crisis.

Cancer has changed many things for me, but the biggest thing it has changed is my career path. I left a job I dreamt about from a young age and loved, but I knew deep down it was no longer the right job for my health and future.

I often catch myself questioning my decision to leave. I was good at my job. I loved the network of friends the job offered.  I turned up to each trip feeling success in life and myself. But mainly because I knew who I was in that life. My identity was clear.

However, I left. And it’s now time to start searching for that new identity. I don’t know what my new career will look like, and I’m often overwhelmed by the fear of where the road will lead. What will I do? Will it be the right fit? Will I find the same satisfaction of success like I did in the past? I hope so.

All I know is I have a shiny piece of paper to help me shape that new identity.

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“Sometimes, we stay on our path because we’re good at what we do. Because we think that makes the most sense. Or because we wonder if it would be too late to be good at anything else.” – Australian Writers’ Centre