Battling Survivor's Guilt

I recently got back from the trip of a lifetime to Israel. I had never traveled internationally before, so this trip was a really big deal to me! We booked the trip, which didn't take place until mid-January, in early September. That left a lot of time for me to fret over what all I needed to do to prepare, what clothes I needed to take, what precautions I needed to make. I am not usually a worrier, but I must have read the information that the travel agency sent us a hundred times to be sure I was getting everything right.

But, this article is not about my trip to Israel. I've written a couple of other pieces about that. No, this has a sadder theme.

Logging back onto Facebook

While I was off living my long-time dream, I had several brave friends back here in the US who weren't faring as well. I didn't keep up with Facebook, my source of nearly all information when it comes to knowing how my fellow lung cancer survivors are doing, while I was out of the country. There wasn't time and besides, I wanted and needed a break from the realities of life.

Last night, though, I skimmed through some Facebook posts. My elation over my trip was quickly squashed.

First, I was saddened to see that one of my favorite people passed away. She'd been doing fairly well in fighting her lung cancer, but she had a stroke and was too weak to recover from it.

Another friend and fellow blogger had a heart attack. She's fairly young, has a big and loving family, has been beating lung cancer for several years, and bam! A heart attack nearly takes her life. (Thankfully, the last word I got is that she is surprising doctors and recovering.)

The feelings of guilt set in

I thought to myself, I wish I hadn't seen Facebook. There is too much pain and sadness. So many friends who have been doing well are suddenly facing recurrences of their cancer or other illnesses, perhaps even more deadly than cancer.

It makes me feel a bit ashamed that I have been enjoying my life, while they've been fighting so hard for theirs. Obviously, I can't trade my joy and my relatively good health for theirs. It simply doesn't work that way. But, it doesn't stop me from feeling just a bit guilty that, for unknown reasons and despite all odds, I am still doing well when they are not.

When my friends either have a recurrence or their cancer quits responding to the drugs or, worst, they pass away, it does more than fill me with survivor's guilt. It brings to the forefront of my mind that life is very uncertain. Just because I am doing just fine right now, all of that can change in a moment. Losing my 43-year-old, seemingly healthy, son a couple of months ago certainly reinforced that fact.

Appreciate every moment

So, what's the takeaway? I tend to be a glass-half-full kind of gal. Despite my sorrow and the nagging remorse that I'm still enjoying life when too many others are not, the circumstances make me rebel a bit. I resolve again and again to keep living, really living, this life I have been given. I resolve to appreciate every minute of every day until God takes the ability to do so away from me. I hope you will, too.

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