Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Survivor's Guilt

This summer I found myself struggling for time and the right words for blogging…but today found me with a bit of extra time and a topic on my heart, that is seldom spoke of: Survivor’s guilt.

Many times in life when we are faced with challenges beyond our control, we often can be heard saying “Why me?” When I was diagnosed with cancer, I don’t believe I said, “Why me?” But I did say, “It doesn’t make sense.” You, see, I was doing the things all the magazines say to prevent cancer. Exercise—check! Nutritious eating—check! Healthy lifestyle—check! Nonsmoker—check! No family history of cancer—check! Nursed my babies—check! Good Christian girl—check! Oh—did I just say that last one? Yup, I did…you see, I, like many, thought that I could follow the check list, I would prevent cancer. The funny thing is…cancer doesn’t obey the check lists, nor does being a “Good Christian girl” protect you from bad things happening. (I have never believed that being a christian would protect me from bad things--however, when I was first diagnosed there was some hurtful things said to me in regards to my diagnosis was a punishment because I wasn't following God correctly--to be discussed in a future blog post.)
2 ½ yrs later…

Interestingly enough...survivorship doesn't follow a check list either.  Most days, cancer is tucked away in a nice little corner of my mind.  That is until I hear of someone having a recurrence, admitted to hospice, or passed away.  Along with grieving for the individuals, those days I find myself asking, “Why Me?” Why am I the lucky one? Sure, I still struggle with some painful side effects from the grueling treatment, but how come I am so blessed to not have cancer return, at least not yet?

Unfortunately, there are no answers to these questions, but I do believe there are things we can do to help us with any “survivor guilt” feelings we may experience. First, we can give ourselves permission to ask the questions, process the questions and live with our answers. For me, during these times I need more white space on my calendar, a bible on my lap, and a coffee cup in my hand. Second, we, because of our journeys, have been given the unique opportunity of a “new life perspective.” I, personally, am more courageous and confident. I often find myself willing to take more risks—after, all, I endured surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. (Before cancer, I didn't even know what a blog was, nor would have I attempted to write one.) Along, with more risk taking, I find myself loving more deeply and living more authentically. I want to experience life’s tears and the laughter—for these are gifts of life! Last, I believe that as I try to live a “Life of No Regrets,” I am honoring the blessing of today.

Some things still don’t make sense, but one thing that does make sense is that I can say with confidence, “Thank you God for walking with me through cancer, because without You, I would have never discovered some very beautiful truths.”

Question of the day: If you are a survivor, have you ever experienced survivor’s guilt? If so, do you have any tips to share?


Roxane B. Salonen said...

Kim, these are some beautiful thoughts. I know my mother-in-law, who had cancer then a recurrence, but beat cancer fully, has had some moments of survivor's guilt. Currently, she is helping a friend die of cancer, and that's got to be doubly hard. But he is teaching his friends so much about living, I think she's even feeling grateful for his dying...at least in the way he is approaching it. Even that...can be beautiful. That's what I want, Kim. I want to live life fully while God is granting it to me, and then, when it's my time to go, I want to die teaching people how to live...and die well. I want to always be inspiring people to run into the arms of the Creator, whether in life or death. Thanks for nudging me to these deep thoughts tonight. I appreciate your writing and thank you so much for being such a faithful reader of my blogs, too. XXOO

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

You still have so much to do here on Earth, like spreading hope and offering support. You're doing it through this blog and other connections. Blessings to you. You deserve them.

Terri said...

Thanks for coming over to my blog to say hello. I am happy to have found you and I love this post. I can relate to so much of what you have written and I appreciate how honestly you have shared your thoughts. I have experienced survivor guilt to go along with my, "I only had stage 1 cancer guilt", but I continue to believe there is a reason I am on this earth and it's to inspire other people to dream big dreams and start the next chapter in their lives. So nice to find a kindred spirit. Big hugs. Terri