Part of my story is set at a small boarding school where my husband worked. It was his first job out of college, and he was quickly thrown into adulthood by becoming a teacher, coach, tutor, student adviser, and the head dorm parent for a building of twenty or so high school boys.
Ryan graduated a year ahead of me, and the summer after I finished school, we got married and I moved into his apartment. We had a spacious and very drafty one on the first floor of a boy’s dorm. It never quite felt like home, though, no matter how long we lived there or how many times we rearranged our collection of hand-me-down furniture.
Most of the problem was that home, for Ryan, was also work. The small community, so cherished by the school, had its drawbacks. The kids were nosy. They knew our cars, and they therefore knew when we were home and when we were out. We could hear them pounding up the stairs behind our apartment and, unfortunately, many of their conversations in the bathroom below our living room.
Ryan coached two seasons of sports, and there were classes and games on Saturdays. When we had a rare full weekend or a chance to get away, we always felt like we were escaping. School just didn’t feel like home. In fact, if you called “Home” from my cell phone, you still got my parent’s house.
That all changed. I finished graduate school, and in the midst of a major recession, was trying to find a job. We wanted to move to the Boston area, but teacher jobs have a pretty set hiring season, so our plan was for me to find a job and move first, so that at least one of us would have a job, and we would be able to move to Boston. To my surprise, I was offered a job almost right away, at an environmental consulting firm in Lowell. We decided to go for it. I was going to move, and Pat would join me ten months later. It wasn’t ideal, but we would work it out.
I was going to start my new job on a Monday. I had moved into my first real apartment; I was going to pay rent; I was going to be more independent. Just first, I had my 4.5-year check up appointment in Boston the Friday before. My cancer had been gone so long that it was very unlikely for it to return, but they were also going to do an MRI of my hip, which had been bothering me. I’d even already had a clean x-ray of my hip, so I was not that worried.
But the MRI showed that the pain in my hip was being caused by a large mass that was hitting nerves. We didn’t find out that day what the “mass” was, since we would have to wait for a biopsy, but it was probably Ewing’s sarcoma. I was probably going to need chemotherapy again.
Too upset to call my new boss, I sent an email explaining that something was wrong and I didn’t know what yet, and could I please move my start date? His response was, “I hope it’s nothing serious; sure, we can move your start date.” About a week later, I got an email from a woman in HR that said they were rescinding my offer because I had asked to move my start date and they needed someone to begin immediately. I had been told earlier they were not waiting for me to start on any specific projects.
I am not sure how legal action would have turned out, and I never got any further responses from the company. This experience deeply shook my faith in humanity. It was not helped when my requests to cancel the lease on my new apartment were completely ignored. And so, before I was even sure I had cancer again, I was unemployed and owed rent on an empty apartment. Also, I probably had cancer. It was a definite low point.
The next weekend, my parents came to stay with me as I recovered from port-placement surgery–it’s really a minor surgery, but my parents told me that moving was not an activity in which I was allowed to participate. I didn’t fight that one.
Meanwhile, I lay on the couch, and my parents cleaned my apartment, happy for a way to help. Ryan and two of our faculty friends drove the three hours from school to my apartment. His uncle met them there, and they took down the photos we had just hung, broke down the bed we had just bought, and packed and wrapped everything carefully back into boxes. Then they drove the three hours back and helped unload everything on the other end. And as they carried my things back into our apartment, I followed them into my home.