by Glen Kirkpatrick
1: A person or thing situated away or detached from the main body or system
2: A person or thing excluded from a group; an outsider
Earlier this year, I was speaking with someone, and well … she called me a name.
Over the previous 15 months, I had shared with Melissa McCool, LCSW, my therapist at Kaiser Permanente, about both the challenges and rewards of living as a long-term cancer survivor – one who currently copes with the late-effects of the radiation and chemotherapy I had in the 80s.
“You’re an outlier. The rules of life don’t apply to you. You have survived or lived beyond expectations.”
On that day, I was expressing to her that it has felt like an old wound being reopened every time I’ve received the all too frequent news of a new diagnosis or the worsening of an existing condition.
She responded with this: “You’re an outlier. The rules of life don’t apply to you. You have survived or lived beyond expectations. Perhaps a more helpful way to think, Glen, the next time you’re told of a new or worsening condition is to remember you’re an outlier.”
I thought to myself, Outlier. I like the sound of that. Yeah! I’m an outlier.
Right then, I decided that the next time a doctor gives me a new diagnosis or tells me an existing condition has worsened, I’ll say with a huge grin on my face, “Doctor, I’m not surprised. You see, I’m an outlier!” When the meeting with my therapist ended, I kept thinking about my new descriptor. I’m an outlier. Yeah, I’m an outlier.
I’ve survived beyond expectations. And for as long as I live, I’ll be happy to call myself an outlier.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Glen Kirkpatrick is a writer and retired police officer living in San Diego, CA. He is a chronic lymphocytic leukemia survivor and two-time Hodgkin lymphoma survivor.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, July/August 2013.