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Cancer Guilt

I started reading a good book Fatal to Fearless by Kathy Giusti. She is a Multiple Myeloma survivor and founded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). She recommends that I start writing/blogging. So here I am... not everything I write will turn into a blog, some will be private, but I thought this might help someone going through health challenges.

First a little update for everyone. I am almost at the two year mark of being in remission. I take maintenance medicine daily and have bi-monthly check-ins with my oncologist. It has been smooth sailing (with a few minor side effects). If you don't know a lot about Multiple Myeloma, currently the life expectancy is 10yrs. Most people get diagnosed are much older, so I believe I will live long enough to where there is a cure. They are getting closer to finding one! Put that on your prayer list! :-)

There are many stages that people go through when they hear the words, "You have cancer". At first, it's "Why me?", disbelief, and lots of grief. There is anger, confusion, frustration, sadness, and many more emotions that go through one's mind. But today, I am going to write about the emotion of guilt AND one of the best piece of advice I received on how to deal with it.

So what is cancer guilt? Am I the only one that feels/felt this way?

I started experiencing guilt after attending a Light the Night event in Wichita, KS. It is a great event, so don't take what I am saying the wrong way.

During this event, I started asking myself questions. Why me? Why do I get to get into remission when many others don't. I see people my age and younger passing away. Why not me? Many of them fathers or mothers of young kids. How is this fair? I hear people being in the hospital for months or bed ridden. Why not me? I hear horrible side effects and lift altering mobility. Why not me? I see kids battling cancer. I see some losing the battle. Then I think, thank you God for giving me this and not my kids. I felt fortunate and at the same time I felt guilty.

It was a hard night for me emotionally. Here I am carrying a white lantern that signifies "survivor". I am with my wife and kids. I felt so blessed to be living and in remission. My health is good, I am working full-time, and life is getting back to "normal". I couldn't help but see so many others that are carrying a gold lantern. The gold lanterns are carried by those walking in memory of loved ones lost to cancer. Guilt creeps in...and I told Katie:

" I feel guilty being alive and doing so well around so many people that have not been so fortunate. How go on living a normal life and not feel guilty about being the "lucky" one".

This is when Katie gave me the best advice or one liner on how I should live the rest of my life.

Katie, "How do you think the people who have died would want you to live? Do they want you to feel guilty, or do they want you to live life to the fullest?"

That resonated with me then and it does still today. I need to live my life to the fullest to honor all those who have fought the battle before me. I have a second chance at life and most people never get to experience that chance.

The silver lining is that once you have gone through something that has given you a second chance in life, you start to look at the world different. I look at my wife different, I look at my kids different, I look at my friends family and co-workers different. Things that used to be a big deal to me are no longer a big deal. I don't waste as much mental energy on things out of my control.

So I choose to embrace each day as a precious gift, a chance to defy the odds and live life on my own terms. I may stumble and fall along the way, but I will rise again, stronger and more resilient than before. For in the end, it is not the challenges we face that define us, but how we choose to confront them.

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