The idea of being an impostor seems to be popular in the awareness of chronically ill people and it’s often difficult to narrow down what we mean. I won’t speculate on how other people define themselves as essentially unworthy to be regarded as a genuine sick person. The spectrum is too wide and I think a person’s self-designation varies from moment to moment.
For me, I volunteer for imposter’ship in cancer based on my apparent misunderstanding of what it means to “have” cancer. First, over the six appointments I’ve had with people designated as “my” oncologist, I’ve actually seen five different people. #1 involved two visits and then she ditched me when I became violently ill from the infusion and didn’t know the rules of contact. #2 was nice but being sick made me inarticulate and frustrated and I walked out on her. #3 was another communications failure. Our first meeting went badly and the second he opened with how I’d used up too much time asking incomprehensible questions. I don’t count the second meeting with #3 as he was clear I didn’t qualify for care and walked out. #4 was a nice doctor and we met a few times but her reports from the branch clinic where I was “treated” never seemed to go to the main clinic–which I was not allowed to contact nor did I bother, as I didn’t know who my actual oncologist was after #1 quit. #4 represented a few pleasant moments prior to the infusions where I said everything was fine. Since it was clear being not-fine pissed them off, why mention it? #5 could stand in for #4 as she was a real oncologist at the main clinic who my daughter thought I should see about my “concerns.” Our meeting lasted a half hour where it was made clear that all the people I felt had let me down were exemplary practitioners of care’ology, though it sadly does occur that patients become confused and are not reliable witnesses to their kindness.
Up to this point, half way through my eight month treatment schedule, (booked at the start for six months but I kept getting sick from the infusions delaying the next one) I gave up talking to any “official” person except the grumpy nurses who seemed irritated with me anyway and kept it short. Last infusion I left without any goodbyes from people I’d “known” for months. Had my post-chemo CT Scan, passed it and was assigned an oncologist to follow me for a year or two to see if the cancer comes back. I can’t remember her name or office number though she did call a few months ago to confirm my need for a follow-up colonoscopy, I haven’t heard a thing.
Since a person needs doctors to be a patient it’s time to stop pretending I’m a patient.