Saturday, May 18, 2013

That other emotion with cancer

Survivor guilt often hits cancer patients later one. We are diagnosed and are hit with the why me mentality. Then as we come to accept and adapt to our cancer diagnosis, we tend to meet others who are also dealing with their cancer diagnosis. Then sometimes they are not so lucky and don't make it. Then we are faced with survivor guilt.

I can sympathize with this. I had thyroid cancer in 1981.When I returned to school shortly after that I lived in a dorm on a coed floor. That year the school had a mural painting contest on each floor. On the other side of the floor was an artistic student, in fact his father was an art professor, who painted an amazing mural. I can't remember if we won the contest or not but I do remember Andy the painter.

Within a year or so we learned Andy had an aggressive form of brain cancer and dropped out to focus on his treatment. He did show up at a party I hosted in a wheelchair once. But that was the last time I saw him. He didn't make it much longer. Why him? He was younger than me. That was when I first felt the first twinges of survivor guilt.

Later in life, I have met many more people with their own cancer diagnosis. Some are doing well, some are no longer with us. Some became very good friends as we talked about cancer and life with it. The closer I get to them, the harder it is when they don't make it. I have been to too many funerals recently.

Why don't they make it too? Cancer is treatable in many ways these days but there is still a long way to go. The guilt that I have made it twice through cancer and they did not make it through their cancer lives in the background.

This is another emotion with cancer that we must learn to cope with as we live our lives and go from doctor appointment to doctor appointment. This is also accompanied by the chronic fear that we don't want to get  moved to the category of 'the ones who don't make it'.

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