May 20, 2009

Single or Unmarried During Cancer


I talk and write an awful lot about the loneliness of being single during cancer.  Yep, I’m married now, but I went through four years of cancer singledom before I met Shannon.

Being married means more than having someone to hold you after a horrible day at chemo.  Check out all of the perks afforded to married couples: Spouses get visitation rights, smoother application of  power of attorney, and can get our meds from the pharmacy no questions asked.  Spouses get to share insurance benefits and might even get special tax breaks.  Spouses have the built in support of sharing possessions, expenses, and are often built in caregivers.

I’m damn lucky to get these pluses and feel it is totally jive that single people and unmarried same sex partners don’t.  Here are some resources that, while they are a tiny drop in the bucket, are good ones to check out:

Hospital Visitation Authorization Document from the Human Rights Campaign – Instructs your doctor, care providers and hospital staff about who is allowed and given priority to visit you if you are hospitalized.  This is a great document, but as we have seen in recent news about a lesbian woman who had power of attorney and was still unable to visit her dying partner, these documents don’t always work in every real life situation.

Breast Cancer Recovery Infinite Boundaries Retreat – Special retreat for women who are or have gone through the experience of breast cancer without the support of a spouse, partner or significant other.  They have already held their session for this year, but I’d get on the mailing list so you can find out ASAP about next year’s – it fills up fast!

Are you/ were you single or unmarried during any part of cancer?  What were your biggest challenges?  How did you work around them?  I only mentioned the negatives.  Are there any benefits to being single or unmarried with cancer?

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February 23, 2009

LGBT Young Adult Cancer

Odd One Out
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I lived in San Francisco.  I attended a young adult cancer support group with my great friend and co-cancer patient conspirator Seth Eisen.  Even in San Francisco, queer capital of the world, Seth was the only gay man in our support group.

A few years later, I interviewed Seth for my book Everything Changes.  I hunted endlessly for LGBT support services and advice specific to 20 and 30-somethings to include in a resource section that followed Seth’s chapter.  I turned up zilch.  To write this section, I grilled advocates at major LGBT healthcare organizations on issues that they had never thought about before: the difference between being young and old with cancer.  I’m a married straight woman and was stumping the LGBT community. Something is wrong with this picture.

The only way we will expand support of underserved segments of the young adult cancer community is by striking up good dialogue.  Listen and call in tonight to the Stupid Cancer Show, 9 PM EST when Matthew Zachary and I will be talking with Darryl Mitteldorf about young adult LGBT cancer issues.  

Whether you are gay or straight, what kinds of questions would you ask Darryl on the show tonight?  If you are an LGBTYACP, what are some of the biggest barriers you face as a young adult patient?  Do you feel comfortable being out in the medical environment?

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