Guilt: A Lasting Side Effect of A Cancer Survivor

That Guilty feeling

After a cancer diagnosis it is natural to go through many different feelings; It is like an emotional rollercoaster. Some people feel angry, sad or anxious whilst others may feel depressed or guilty. Myself, went through all of these and many more but the worst one was the guilt. Cancer turns your life upside down and you can just about experience every emotion there is, you have your ups and downs. I blamed myself for becoming ill. I looked for reasons why I got cancer.

Blame

I blamed myself for lifestyle choices that might have led to my cancer. Could I have done something differently? When I was in University I had many late nights; some nights where i had no sleep at all, where I was out drinking and dancing. Boy, I drunk! If I didn’t do that, would I have still fallen sick? Was it because I starved my body of a certain nutrient, that I didn’t eat the correct food or have a balanced diet? Did I compromise my immune system? I’m not really a junk food person, but we’ve all been there when we have had a takeaway on a night out. Could that have been the cause? Was my job too stressful? Was I working in the profession and putting too much strain on my health? Did I not give my body enough rest? Maybe, I didn’t exercise enough! Maybe, walking daily or doing a 10 minute excerise at home just wasn’t enough to keep my body fit and healthy.

Media

The belief that cancer happens for a reason can be an attractive line of thinking — where there’s an effect, there must be a cause. Right? That’s what we’re led to think.

“Don’t smoke, you will get lung cancer”

“Obesity is the cause of cancer too!”

“Exposure to carcinogens increases the risk of getting cancer”

“Too much sunburn can give you skin cancer”

“CT scans in childhood can triple the chance of developing brain cancer”

The list is an endless blame, causing us to feel guilty about the lifestyle that we lead. And, that moment when you get your cancer diagnosis you begin to question your life; you begin to lay blame on yourself.

I even read recently that drinking hot tea can cause Oesophageal cancer. Social media is to blame for the guilt that cancer patients suffer. What we read and what is shared around on the internet causes us to believe that we have put our own lives at risk by cleaning our houses with bleach or that we eat too much processed foods.

Companies lead us to believe that there products are anti-cancer by claiming that the ingredients help to fight off cancer cells, making us feel guilty that we enjoy eating our favourite foods.

Fault

Guilt and blame go hand in hand with cancer. More often than not we don’t know what causes it, Cancer is caused by so many factors – yet, we still blame ourselves.

Not only did I feel guilty that I got cancer but I also felt guilty that I had to take time off of work to have the treatment and operations; guilty that I was putting my family through such misery and worry; guilty that my young children had to experience such a horrible thing and even survivor guilt – why have I survived and my friend didn’t?

I felt that I was letting people around me down; family relied on me to be strong and I couldn’t be that person anymore.

Nobody was judging me but myself.

Warrior

I was constantly told that I was a warrior; that I had kicked cancers butt. But, I felt ashamed to be called a warrior as I didn’t see myself as someone who had won a fight or someone who had courage or a skill.

I just didn’t want my life to end; I didn’t fight and I certainly wasn’t brave. I cried every day, I was weak and I beat myself up for becoming so ill.

I did what everyone else who gets cancer does and that was to get through each and every day a day at a time. I attended my appointments; took the daily cocktail concoctions of drugs that was prescribed to me; laid in a machine daily for 5 weeks and had operations to remove the tumour

Cancer weakened me. It played with my emotions. It played mind games with me. I was psychologically and physically beaten.

Goodbye Guilt

I don’t want to feel guilty anymore. I don’t want to look within me for blame.

I want to look to the future now because that Is what I have. A future with my family.

I need to acknowledge my feelings and let go of the guilt. I will now focus on the positive and good things in my life. If I could fight the cancer then I sure as hell can fight the guilt.

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Mum, Are You Proud Of Me?

There is nothing more that makes me proud of any of my three children than just being themselves.

I have three boys aged from 6 to 15 and they are all individuals, exceeding in different areas with talents and interests that are not the same as each other. That’s what makes them individuals.

There are no words that can describe how much each of them mean to me, I was blessed with three amazing young boys, who, without a doubt, I know will grow into three incredible young men. Being a Mum to these boys has given me a purpose in life and has shown me a new sense of being. They are why my heart beats and why blood runs through my veins. They give me energy like no other.

I am proud of all three of them and even though I tell them how much they all make me proud, the other day my middle boy (I actually hate calling him my middle boy, because they say that it’s always the middle child that gets left out and I am always conscious of that) asked me if he made me proud of him.

These 5 words stung my eyes.

There is nothing more that makes me proud of my boys than who they are. But, obviously my son was feeling a little left out.

We had had a couple of hours together doing something that he absolutely enjoys with a passion, we had gone cycling around the country park. He loves nature and the outdoors. So we spent some time, just him and I, cycling through the park looking at tress, listening to the birds and looking out across the lake at the birds swooping down to catch the fish.

He is such a sensitive soul and the most caring boy I know, he may not be outstanding academically but he is full of knowledge.

He can tell you so much about animals and their habitats. He can talk about them for hours.

He knows all about countries, there flags and where about they are in the world.

He can read a book of 600 pages, re-telling the story with passion, remembering every part of it.

He has his own fashion style, he always likes to look smart and likes to wear quirky clothes. He enjoys being different.

He is adventurous, courageous, intuitive, sensitive and loving.

I could go on describing how perfect he is to me, but like I said there really are not enough words.

I told him all this, all of the above and more.

I told him how much he means to me and that it makes me sad that he even had to ask me if he makes me proud.

I tell him and his brothers often how proud I am of them. Even for the little things. Like offering to hold the door open for someone, carrying my bag when they can see me struggling or for their caring nature.

Being proud of them doesn’t mean that they have to achieve something that is extra-ordinary or special. It’s seeing them grow. It’s watching them achieve personal goals. It’s those small moments that are giant steps of success. I give them praise when it matters and talk about the obstacles that they have overcome.

I held my son so tight and looked him in the eye and told him just look at me, with no words. Because no words could describe how proud of him I was, only the look of love and pride in my eyes could. That’s how we stood. In the middle of a country park, faces cupped into each others hands. Staring into each others eyes. (this in itself was an achievement for my son, as he finds it hard to keep eye contact) After a few moments we let go of our contact and cuddled each other. He just smiled at me and said that he saw the love nd adoration I had for him.

I myself, saw a little boy who was struggling to find a place for himself amongst the world around him. I saw a boy who needed Love. I told him whenever he needs that whenever he is feeling sad and alone to just remember the look in my eyes

I hope now he realises that words are not needed to show how proud I am of him.

 

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Struggling Through

Well I’ve been home from hospital for 12 days now and each day is a day closer to being stronger to fight this horrible disease. It’s a struggle, I have to cope with the post pain from having two surgeries and learning to get around the house again.

Walking up the stairs is like trek up Mount Snowdon. Each step pulls on the muscles at the back of my leg. My legs feel heavy and ache all the time. I am lucky that we have stair railing and a bannister to hold onto as I walk up and down the stairs. I take a rest half way up and just carry on. I need to push myself to do this as laying in a hospital bed for so long has weakened my muscles. Each step I fight against the pain, each step takes up so much of my energy.

Not only do I have to deal with the pain and recovery from having 2 bowel surgeries but I am also coping with a massive weight loss. I have always been small framed and have never been a girl to count my calories or go out of my way to keep fit, but I am now dangerously underweight. Whilst in hospital I was put onto a TPN where nutrients were pumped into my main artery. I was put onto this drip too late as my weight had already plummeted due to having no appetite and being Nil By Mouth for days on end. My appetite has now come back, it took a while, but I am now eating as much as my body can take to

try to restore my energy levels and gain some fat. My weight gain is slow, but I am being told that you can see a difference in my face since I’ve been home.

Each day I manage to do more about the home and have even managed to get out to the shops, with the help of my Mummy. For the first week at home, the sofa became my best friend. It’s where I slept at night and rested through the day. I needed help up the stairs, at one point I had to be carried up them as I collapsed at the bottom. Now, nearly 2 weeks being at home, I go up and down by myself and I am back to sleeping in my bed.

Sleeping is a big struggle. It has been for a while. It started in hospital, with all the noise and bright lights it made it highly impossible to have a good nights sleep. I used an eye mask but it didn’t really help that much. Where I have lost weight I have bones sticking out on my back, making it uncomfortable to get in a good position to sleep. We have bought a tempur mattress topper, which was a small fortune, but it has made a huge difference on the comfort of the bed.

Me on my first day out of the house
Me on my first day out of the house

Life is a constant battle, no matter how hard I try I seem to come against a brick wall or a dead-end. I feel alone at times and like is everything is falling apart. Some days are harder than others.

I do not dwell on the pain, instead I think about how much stronger I am as a person for getting through it.

Strength only comes from continuous struggle.

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My Unconditional Love

When I found out I was pregnant with all three of my boys, I never had that instant feeling of love for them. It sounds wrong doesn’t it? It wasn’t until I felt that first little flutter in my tummy (that could have easily been passed for wind) that I wanted to protect them. As the boys grew and my tummy started to expand I began to feel and see their little feet and hands pushing against my skin, I knew then that the love I had for them was unconditional. I knew that no-one would come even close to the love I had for them. A parents love and need for their children is strong.

The first time I held my boys and looked into there eyes, I only felt love. I didn’t want to let them go, put them down or leave them with anyone. I wanted to cherish as much of them as possible. I was selfish in a way, as I didn’t want anyone else to be with them. They were mine, all mine. I breathed in their sweet sweaty smell of their skin, I stroked their cute little wrinkled face, I watched as they wrapped their tiny little fingers around mine, I felt their tiny heart beat against my skin and I held them tight. As tight as I could. Motherly love instantly kicking in. No time for tiredness just time for them.

Since giving birth to my first son some 13 years ago, I havent really left them with anyone. My life changed. I became a stay at home Mum and spent my days hugging and holding my boys. It’s not that I don’t trust anyone with them but I need to be near them, I need to be close to them. I am their protector, their guide through life. We do everything together, obviously they do their own things with friends but when they are at home we are always together.

My boys are certainly Mummy boys. Where ever I go they go too. I can’t even go to the toilet without them waiting outside of the door for me. It’s me who they confide in when having troubles at school or with friends. It’s me who they come to when they are upset. It’s me who they cry for when they are hurt. It’s me who kisses all their hurt away. It’s me who they sit and watch TV with and cuddle up to on the sofa. Dad is around but it has always been Mummy. My fault entirely for being over protective of them. But I wouldn’t change it. They are independent boys, they don’t need me for anything but I am always near by if and when they need me.

From the first moment I held my boys to now my love has not faltered. I have the same fluttery feeling, my heart aches and I get a lump in my throat.

As I have said before, my boys are my life. They are the reason why I fight every day. They are the reason why I am so strong. They are the reason why I have hope.

Recently with the bad news that I received, my heart ripped in two. I know it sounds weird but I felt it. My heart ached. It pained. It was hard to breathe. My throat was dry. My boys showed me that Love will conquer. Love is strong. My heart is nothing without them. The love I receive from them is full on, mighty and energetic.

We are a team.

My love may be unconditional for them but It certainly isn’t blinded by their behaviour. My boys are no saints. They fight, shout, scream, their lazy and messy. They can push me to the limit and I may shout at them but we all know that this is part of growing up, they know that I love them and I only want the best for them.

I love how my eldest has a strong passion for running and swimming. He is caring and thoughtful. He is very clever, being a member of mensa at the age of 11. His brain is like a sponge and when he talks its like he has swallowed a dictionary/thesaurus.

I love the middle ones sensitivity. He is very caring and loving. He loves his lego and has a creative imagination. He loves to spend time with family and be close to them. He is witty and charming.

I love the shear strength of the youngest. He is strong willed and very determined. I can see him being very clever when he is older but hopefully not get side tracked by peers. He is loving and bubbly. He is shy but also determined.

All three of them put their heart into everything and always want to achieve at their utmost.

All three are my unconditional love.

 

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What will the future hold….

As I sit down at the dining table, I hear my boys from upstairs, fighting, arguing, playing, shouting and just being plain noisy little terrors. And as I am about to open my mouth and shout up the stairs for them to calm down a bit and be a little quieter. I think how quickly life goes by. I don’t want to be known by my boys as the Mummy who shouted at us a lot. I want them to be boys. In fact. I don’t want them to grow up at all.

I know most of us parents look at our little babies and wish for them to stay tiny forever. My boys are growing up too fast and I just want life to slow down So I can take in every second of their lives. My boys are my babies, no matter their age.

My eldest no longer cuddles me and the ‘I Love you Mum’ is becoming less and less.

My boys drive me mad. I am forever pulling them apart and shouting at them. My days don’t go by without me having to tell them off, there are points in my day that I sit and cry. There are days when I think I just can’t go on anymore. There are days that I just want to walk away from the fighting and tantrums. But these are normal. No ones life as a parent runs smoothly.

And as hard as It is raising three hyper boys who are forever on the go. I look at them and I just don’t want to them to grow up.

I don’t want to let go of them. I don’t want them to leave me.

Oh, I wish for them to have a happy, successful life. Get married. Have children. Be in a their dream job. I just don’t want them to forget, little old me. The Mum who took them to clubs when they were younger. The Mum who played on the floor with them for hours, in their imaginary game. The Mum who sat up all night long watching them breath when they were ill. The Mum who watched them compete and perform with tears of pride in her eyes. The Mum who taught them right from wrong, taught them how to love and who was always there for them.

It’s the well-known quote “A son is a son till he takes a wife, a daughter’s a daughter fort he rest of her life” that scares me. I myself am closer to my Mum than my Dad, although I love my Dad. It’s my Mum whom I call every day and talk to when upset.

What will the future hold?

I just pray to my boys that I will not be one of those Mother in law from hell. I will become their partners friend as much as I am theirs.

I live my days for my boys and like many other parents my weekends are planned around them. My life changed when they came, for the best. I became who I am now. I am who I am because of my boys. I’m scared of what I will become without them around.

What will the future hold? No one knows! Please Boys, Don’t forget Mummy.

 

 

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