I do not think survivor’s guilt is uncommon. I felt it when my high school friend died from cancer over a decade ago. I felt it when another classmate died from brain cancer. And now my friend and co-worker is going through breast cancer. My guilt usually comes when someone I know dies. I wonder how the odds could go so easily in my favor and not theirs.
Yesterday was a weird day for me. My friend and co-worker M is going through breast cancer treatment. Her hair is starting to fall out. When I saw her yesterday she had shaved a lot of it off. She pulled out a chunk of hair because after dodging the hair loss bullet for four chemos the hair is now falling out. I remember this all too well. It was chemo number 5 for me. For a month I had dodged that bullet. At first it was a lot of hair on my pillow in the morning. Then more. Until finally it was just no denying it. I was losing my hair. It was demoralizing. And here I was watching someone pull out their hair. I was overwhelmingly sad. Because I know.
I know it is possible to have PTSD about being sick. I felt it yesterday. I have felt it before. It makes me incredibly sad that all this is happening. My instinct is to tell M that it is only hair, it will grow back, it does not define her but… Reality is that as women we are defined by the way we look, dress, act… It is so tough to be bald. To be sick. To hate the world. All I guess I can say is that is does get better. That it is only temporary.
When I sit on that beach in Maui I am going to thank the universe for so many things. Life, love, laughter. And to really banish the guilt and just be a supportive survivor to those who will come in to my life with cancer.