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Losing a Fellow Warrior

When I was first diagnosed, I was grasping at any ray of hope that I could make friends during my journey. I remember searching support groups via social media and easily found people also traveling a lung cancer journey.

I felt some sort of relief as I openly shared through various platforms and received support from complete strangers across the country and world. None of us would have ever been brought together, but a life changing diagnosis made many an instant friend to share struggles through adversity.

I found comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone. As time went on, I developed relationships with so many and would text or chat on a regular basis discussing our journey and expressing ourselves in a way that no one else really could understand.

The void that comes with loss

We build trust with these people and share things that maybe we don’t feel comfortable sharing with our own families. We see them as a safe place to share and connect.

When we lose someone within this special community, we feel a void. The once safe and secure place now serves as reminder of the reality of this journey and just how unpredictable and fragile this journey can be.

The most difficult for me has been opening social media and finding a post from my friend’s loved one that they passed from this world. The sadness is overwhelming. The person that you once talked to often or even daily is suddenly plucked away.

The survivor’s guilt sets in

There’s so many complex emotions that follows such a great loss among those that we share such an incredible bond and one of those is survivor’s guilt. I personally tend to go down the path of thinking why them and not me.

My life isn’t any more important than theirs’. They were a mom, and I don’t have any children. I think about all of these things and it is painful.

I tend to dwell on just how unfair it is that any of us have to be here. None of us deserve to be on this journey and all of the things that were supposed to happen in their life and career were taken from them way too soon.

Those thoughts are daunting. When survivor’s guilt is apparent, hope seems to fall by the wayside for me. The guilt of surviving is truly heavy.

Grief without closure

Sometimes this kind of grief comes without closure. We might not have met some of the people face to face that we have established these incredible connections, but it still stings. We still grieve.

Many of us have experienced loss, but these seem different. There’s a continual uncertainty through a cancer journey and we often don’t have a resolution no matter our treatment or how long we have been on the journey. When we lose a fellow warrior, we are often left with unanswered questions and so many unresolved emotions.

Hope in memories

Losing someone that we shared such a special bond whether in person or through online support groups or social media causes us unexplainable grief. We can certainly find hope in the memories that will live on. We will remember them as an example of strength and so much more.

I participated in a podcast interview a couple years ago and a gentleman reached out to me in appreciation of me sharing my story. We chatted often via Instagram sharing our story and everything we were going through. We shared struggles, but we also shared faith and hope.

I was thinking about him mere days ago and went to his social media pages and saw the words “remembering” and my heart sank. He was gone. I never got to say goodbye.

I have to hope that something I said to him in our many conversations helped because his words were surely encouraging to me. Reading back through our conversations are super special.

Dr. Thomas A. White, you were a warrior my friend. You have won! I will take the fight from here.

May we never forget so many incredible people!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The LungCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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