One of the interesting feelings that seems to be shared amount those who go through traumatic life experiences (cancer / sudden tumor), is that of guilt – particularly of guilt when you are feeling better or when you are in the presence of others who are sharing a similar but different experiences.
One of the ladies I was talking to at a cancer group mentioned that she was feeling a little like a ‘chemo dropout’. She had a bad (life threatening) reaction to chemo, and because in her case the chemo decision wasn’t so clear (the benefit was marginal) it was clear after the first bad reaction that she would not be continuing with chemo. There were several of us in the room just going through the first cycle of chemo, so she expressed feelings of what I can only describe as ‘survivor guilt’.
I was talking to another friend last night who also went through the traumatic experience of having a tumor removed surgically, and the reconstruction associated with it. However, in his case, the tumor had no cancer – so although he went through a lot of the same experiences – he isn’t considered ‘a survivor’, because he didn’t have cancer and that label, somehow, seems to be required. He also lacked support groups and all the other infrastructure that is in place for those with cancer. But also, he is lucky in that he does not need to deal with the constant fear of re-occurance. So, he has survivor-guilt because he survived but wasn’t as sick as others.
That comparison, that need to be part of the group, and yet the recognition that each journey is individual provides a conflict. There will always be someone who has it easier, but also someone who has a much more difficult time of it. When we are together to sharing there is a bond in that shared experience, but also that twinge of ‘guilt’ when you are doing better than someone else – also a lot of feelings of empathy – tearing at my heart strings – when I see others that are doing much worse – but also personal joy in that I am doing as well as I am. Such a mix of emotions.
I’m not sure that this post is really concluding anything, but making interesting observations about the pull of emotions that is going on right now as I enter my low blood count days (chemo nadir). I’m looking forward to the rebound.