I’m sure it will not come as a surprise when I tell you that one of the questions that regularly plagues those newly diagnosed with breast cancer is: “Why me?”
What may be more difficult to believe is the question that hits you once you are done with treatment and have no evidence of disease (NED):
“Why NOT me?”
One of the good things that has come out of my breast cancer journey have been the friends that I have made, friends that also fight this insane disease. They are the best. These ladies are hilarious, beautiful, caring, and strong. Early on, we were sharing many of the same experiences. We were coping with diagnosis, treatment decisions, side effects, grief, and fear. As for me, I was hopeful and optimistic that I would beat cancer and get back to my life.
And, I have mostly. But there is something new, a little thing called survivor’s guilt. According to Wikipedia, survivor’s guilt is:
A mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not.
(I take exception to the implication that I have a mental condition. But that’s not really my point at the moment).
It seems like every time I look up now, another person I know has had a cancer recurrence. Or has developed metastatic cancer (meaning it has spread to other parts of the body). And I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I am “healthy” now. Because I get to continue to live my life. Because I am making plans for the future again. Because for now, I have been spared.
Why not me?
Some of my wonderful sisters have been through similar diagnoses and treatment. But while I responded well to treatment, they did not. While I have not had another influx of cancer cells, they have. What makes us different?
Why them, and not me?
There are those who would say I’ve been spared for a reason. That I have a higher calling. I don’t believe in such things. The truth, as only I can believe it, is simply that our cells reacted differently. The cells in any one of our bodies are as different as I am to you. So, while I may have been one of the lucky ones who have survived this round, next time I may be the one asking, “Why me?”
This is why I try to harness my survivor’s guilt. I try not to take my life for granted. I try now to get a little more out of each day. I try to not be so afraid. Because at the end of the day, I need to know that I have made the most of my second chance.
Why me? Why not?