I don’t mean “why me” like why did I have to go through cancer …. but why me like …. why have I been able to survive (even thrive) when others have not.
Sometimes I do have a bit of “survivor’s guilt”. I use that term because it is one that most people recognize. I don’t really have a sense of true guilt, but I do have a strong sense of awe. It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around why I’m now okay when there are so many others fighting for their next breath. Some are young people. Some are friends with reoccurrences. Some are people I’ve never met. I’m affected by that. And, sometimes the pain is very real for me when I hear the news of a new diagnosis, prognosis or the end of a life.
I go through the same scenario:
I want to, but I shouldn’t … but I want to … but I won’t … ask God …“why”. I know that somehow in the myriad of emotions, confusion and pain that there is a purpose … because He has a purpose for everything. And me … little me … down here on this little planet … in this little town in this little state … does not need the answer to that question at this time.
Once in a while, upon hearing “the news” of another diagnosis, I’ve even had moments when part of me wishes that it was ME, and not them … because … in my eyes, so many of them (patients) have so much yet to give and so much life yet to live. I have lived my life (I know I’m less than 60 years old, but there are young adults — with very young children — fighting the fight). There are little kids holding their parent’s hands while hearing “you have cancer” and it just doesn’t fair. Whatever “fair” is. I have raised my children. I have had a good life. And, I’m not “afraid” to die. So, why me?
Please don’t misunderstand, that DOES NOT mean that I am ungrateful to be alive. Quite the contrary! As I’ve written before, I am living a deeper and richer quality life now (after cancer). I know that through this blog I’ve helped people. They’ve learned what to expect on this journey and they’ve learned that they are not alone. To me … that makes a really big difference …. in their lives …. and also in my own life.
Survivor’s guilt is a post-treatment emotion. Post treatment emotions can be overwhelming. They can become controlling. And, if they get to that point, counseling may be required to get through it. And there’s no shame in that. Emotions are God-given. I’ve listed below some of the emotions that many people have described experiencing:
- Guilt (from the feeling of either surviving when others have not … or because of thoughts of having done – or not done – something to have “caused” the cancer)
- Uncertainty (of what life has in store for you from this point on)
- Anger (because of how cancer or the treatments have impacted your life — you may have a new “normal” because of post treatment sequela)
- Depression (patients are often just physically and emotionally exhausted from the stress of everything, and long-term depression requires treatment … medication helps get the chemicals back in balance and you WILL feel better …. trust me on this one)
- Anxiety (over how you now see yourself — for example if you were left with lymphedema or incontinence issues)
- Spiritual concerns (sometimes patients can begin thinking about their mortality for the very first time — talk with a family member, pastor, hospital clergyman or you can even contact me and I will try to answer any questions you may have
- Emotional numbness (people that just cannot take any more may emotionally shut down … if someone tells you they “can’t feel” …. believe them … it’s true … and it is something that needs addressed by a professional … reach out and allow someone to help)
- Fear (that the cancer will reoccur)
Some vices to help you get through the above emotions:
- Talk (to family, other survivors, someone in your church, cancer support groups, etc.)
- Journal (write down what you are feeling because it really does help to put those feeling into words)
- Color, paint (it doesn’t have to be pretty) OR blow bubbles (yes! All are very therapeutic)
- Volunteer (this is something we are often reluctant to do whenever we are feeling emotional, however, it truly helps us to redirect our thoughts and will move the focus on to helping other people — and, in turn — patients will sometimes be surprised that THEY are the one benefitting from the act of kindness)
So, In closing …..
I do not have the answer to that …
But, you know what I have decided?
I’LL NEVER AGAIN SAY THAT SOMEONE “LOST” THEIR BATTLE TO CANCER (OR THAT CANCER “STOLE” SOMEONE FROM ME)
I REFUSE TO GIVE IT THAT POWER!
I WILL, HOWEVER, SAY THAT GOD RELIEVED THEM
FROM THE PAIN AND STRUGGLE OF THE FIGHT.
“Don’t be afraid; Just believe” — Mark 5:36b