An excerpt from Author Maryam Manteghi’s memoir, The Street of Good Fortune.
Though hair does grow back, ovaries do not. I didn’t cry when the surgeon told me I had cancer. Mostly because I was in shock but also perhaps deep down I somehow sensed not so much that I was sick, more that I was about to face a test unlike any I had before.
I didn’t cry when my boyfriend of five years, the younger Man-Boy I planned to marry, broke up with me over the phone the night before I started chemo.
I didn’t even cry when I realized that I was not going back to my Sarajevo, the only place in the world I’d ever felt truly at home, not for a very long time. I did cry, though, when Dr. Verma explained that the chemo I would receive might leave me unable to have children.
I fell into his arms and sobbed uncontrollably till I couldn’t breathe.
and Dr. Verma’s white coat had my bodily fluids all over it. He didn’t move until I stopped crying. My reaction, I think, surprised me more than anyone else. Suddenly, all the things that I had taken for granted would simply happen were being snatched away from me.
I suddenly felt like I was being punished for not having the foresight to plan a normal life.
An ordinary life that in a split second had become extraordinary. The same kind of life that I escaped when I left in 2002 on a one-way flight to Sarajevo. The same life that I was so relieved not to be living when I saw my friends tied to houses, children, nannies, minivans, and the mundane everydayness of suburban life.
Punished for having made different choices than my peers. Punished for living a life where I never thought about mortgages and families and job security. Sitting there sobbing on Dr. Verma’s white lab coat, I wondered why I had never thought about those things.
How had I missed entire chunks of life that had occupied my friends during the last five years?
What was I doing when they were all getting engaged, buying houses and planning babies?
How was it that I had never, until this day, sitting in a Sunnybrook Hospital examination room in Toronto, seriously concerned myself with the business of family and children?
It wasn’t that I didn’t want children or a family, it was just that I always thought that marriage and children simply happened to people and that they would simply just happen to me too at some faraway point. And even though this thought was at the back of my mind. The front of my mind had always been occupied with more current events. Like today, or tomorrow or, at most, next week.
My immediate reaction was to blame my parents.
Why didn’t they tell me? Why didn’t they, like normal immigrant families, become alarmed when their only daughter wasn’t married at 30? Why didn’t they nag me about being grandparents or put out a public call to our substantial network of friends, family and acquaintances to drum up some suitable men? Where was the team of middle-aged women in my community whose job it was to make matches?
I mean I was an IRANIAN. Hello?
Matchmakers, setups, Yenta characters straight out of Fiddler on the Roof. How had I fallen through the cracks?