Friday, December 14, 2007

Survivor's Guilt

If you are a cancer survivor then you are probably all too familiar with survivor’s guilt. I myself have felt it many times over the 6 years I have been cancer free. Each time I would hear about a coworker, friend, or anyone connected to me that didn’t make it I would wonder about myself. All those recurrence fears reared their ugly heads from the all too close by place they were hiding. All those thoughts about why I was still here flooded through me. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that made me different and worried would I be next?

There was a coworker of mine that helped me alot when I was diagnosed. She had finished her treatment for breast cancer which included a lumpectomy, chemo (the kind where you don’t loose your hair- I tried to bargain for that and lost!) as well as tamoxifen which I did not take against my oncologist’s advice. You see, on paper she looked much better than me. Her tumor was smaller and her cancer was not invasive like mine was.

After I left that job and moved on I had gone back a couple of years later to visit and I found out from a friend that she had passed away from a recurrence of her cancer with mets. I almost couldn’t breathe. I thought about her and about her kids who would never see their mom again. I thought about how she took her tamoxifen and did all the stuff she was told but still didn’t survive the second time around. I wondered what made her different than me. I wondered why I was still here and why she had to die. I wondered when it would be my turn.

Since then I have also watched my husband’s sister die of cancer at only 27 years old. My husband’s aunt passed away a year later. This year in April my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And the question still remains……why am I still here? My dad’s recent diagnosis has hit me like a ton of bricks. I can barely write the words let alone say them. I can’t yet fathom the idea that another of the four of us in my family has the big “C”. Like we hadn’t suffered enough with my cancer stint. Like surviving his alcoholism wasn’t bad enough. And losing my husband, and the list just goes on….

At this point I really don’t have a concrete answer to my question. All I can come up with on a higher level is that I have more work to do here. I am not done learning yet. But dam it I am gettin pretty tired!

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