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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.