Guilt comes in many forms and we try to mask it in just as many ways, so we don’t feel, well, guilty. Like when you eat an entire packet of Tim Tams in the pantry while the kids peer under the door, skull a bottle of wine at 7am or you leave the kids in the grocery trolley only to remember after you have driven off. We mask it by convincing ourselves that Tim Tams are a super food ( super fucking awesome !!) and if you eat them in a dark room alone, did it really even happen?? , wine is just grape smoothie and if you drink it on the toilet before the kids are up, did it really even happen?? and abandonment builds strength… right?… at least they had food and water close by!…yea that really did happen…
The one form of guilt I wasn’t expecting to feel was Survivor Guilt. Yep it’s as real as the number on your scales the morning after the Tim Tam binge. There was many emotions I thought I would have after chemotherapy and many types of stages I thought I would go through, but feeling guilty that I survived was not really one of them. It’s been a daily battle since I was told I was in remission, both during and after chemo. One precise moment that I will never forget is after I saw an extremely sick young man who wouldn’t have been much older than 20. He was only just holding on to life and probably more so for his parents who were visibly broken but keeping busy by fussing over him. I think about him a lot. That’s the thing about the Chemo Room, you hug a lot of strangers and meet so many people who you form a knowing bond with but you never see them again. I often wonder which ones are still here.
2 months into my own treatment I was told that the chemo was working. Someone asked me recently what it was like to hear those words and the closest I can come to explaining it is if you imagine yourself drowning, you are on your last breath and then someone pulls you out of the water. Remission is something that I am thankful for daily however I have this heavy blanket of guilt that I carry and it eats me up when I hear of other cancer fighters that didn’t have the same luck as I did. …Yep, luck! because at the end of the day its bad luck if you get cancer and pure amazing fucking luck if you survive it.
I ask myself “why me?” daily. You are probably thinking that is the question you ask yourself at diagnosis, and it is , but it’s a very different question and just as important in remission. Why did I deserve to be here? Why am I still alive and others are not? Why me and not them or not them too? Sometimes I feel its my fault that people have lost their lives , like a deal made with the devil and in order for me to survive, they wouldn’t. I know it’s not the case but I wish I could just bring them back and it really breaks my heart that I can’t do anything about that. I always sincerely apologise when someone tells me about a loved one they lost to this horrible disease because I feel like I need to say sorry I’m still here and they aren’t….and the thought of children going through Cancer is a thought I don’t allow myself to have.
Why me is something I will never understand and overwhelms me when I try to. ( bit like when I try to understand what’s happened to everyone’s eyebrows lately, how Kmart makes a profit and why the only time the kids are interested in what I’m doing is when I’m on the toilet….they don’t even like grapes ) At times I feel I cannot celebrate my survival as its almost a slap in the face of those who haven’t experienced that. The other guilt I carry is the guilt for my family and my babies. My parents – the hurt they went through, the stress, anxiety, the sleepless nights and the worry. My parents both jeopardised their jobs for me and cancelled an overseas trip they had been planning for 12 months. Its aged them and it tore at their souls. My husband and his family. Anthony’s family suffered a lot too, his parents and siblings, I mean FFS I just married their son, they didn’t ask for this! They cried for us, they hurt with us and they gave up their time and money in order to help us. My friends and family gave us so much love, strength, light and financial support – something I could never repay and no matter how I say thank you will never seem enough.….and My Kids, well that’s just pure and unimaginable guilt. There are just so many people that were affected because I was sick and at the end of the day the fact is , they wouldn’t have suffered if I didn’t have cancer and that’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow. The Tim Tams help with the aftertaste…. Well that’s my excuse anyway! Grape smoothie anyone ??