Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Survivor's guilt

There is something that I never would have predicted I would feel being a cancer survivor, let alone even knew about.  And that is something called survivor's guilt.  You're probably thinking that I'm making this up, right?!
You would think that surviving cancer would lend mostly positive feelings, such as gratitude and hope, or maybe even a sense of accomplishment, but there is this whole other side of being a survivor that can sometimes be hard to deal with.  Fear is part of it.  Fear of the cancer returning, fear of the unknown, fear of not having control over your body.  But then there is also guilt.  Guilt for living when others around you are dying.  Guilt for having success with treatments when others aren't.  Guilt for managing the disease well when maybe others have a difficult time and experience unpleasant side effects.  It just doesn't seem fair.
My intention in writing about this is not to gain pity and sympathy.  It is solely to explore this other side of "survivorship", so that others like myself may not feel alone, as I am sure that others out there that can relate to this sentiment.
It becomes especially difficult when you personally know people that are struggling to stay alive or maybe don't have the same outcome as you did.  Unfortunately, for me, I know plenty of people who have had less than desirable outcomes with cancer and have passed on.  It's even harder when it's the same kind of cancer.  I always experience this pang of guilt and start questioning why they had to die and I survived.  After all, what makes them any different than me?
For example, I recently wrote about my friend, Leslee's husband Jared.  Jared was not much older than me.  Jared had a wife and four young children.  Jared was a good person.  But yet, Jared lost his life to brain cancer.  He was yanked from his family too soon.  He wasn't even middle-aged!  Yet, God had a different plan for him, a plan that maybe we don't comprehend at this point.  So, why him and not me?  We both have similar circumstances.  We both have families, spouses, responsibilities, life to be lived!
And yet for some reason (maybe several reasons), I am still here.  God is obviously not "done" with me yet.  Ok, that sounded like I was getting fired from life or something, but you know what I mean.  My time isn't up yet.  I probably have a lot of lessons to still learn!  I don't want this to sound like I'm ungrateful.  Because trust me, I am NOT ungrateful.  In fact, seeing others go before me (especially younger people) only makes me more grateful to be alive.  But what sometimes accompanies that gratitude is this feeling of guilt.  And it sometimes gets the best of me.  I need to just focus on the positive and push the bad feelings out of my head (easier said than done).
The thing is that I KNOW that God has a plan for all of us.  A very beautiful, unique, individualized plan that only He knows.  His plan for us, I believe, will provide us with the most happiness and growth too.  I also know that people die all the time, at all different ages, sometimes unexplained or at no fault of their own.  Thus is life, right?!  But yet, even with this knowledge, I still struggle with this guilt.
I guess the trick to balancing the good and the bad side of cancer survivorship is to always keep my priorities and perspective in check.  To always come back to what I know and what I feel.  And what I feel is incredible gratitude to be alive, to have a healthy body that is working, to be around for my husband and kids, and to enjoy life even despite the challenges that arise.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


How I love this so much!  I think any challenge, good or bad, can change us for the better if we have the right attitude and perspective.  There is nothing more rewarding than seeing what we've learned and gained from our challenges!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Definition of Inconquerable

What do you think of when you think of the word INCONQUERABLE?

I think of our friend, Leslee Olsen's husband, Jared who just passed away on Friday due to brain cancer.  Even when death was eminent, Jared's spirit never gave up.  He never let cancer define who he was.  He never became bitter at cancer or more importantly, at God for letting his life slip away from his dear wife and 4 sweet, young children.  Jared never complained, he never used his cancer as a "crutch", and he always found humor in everything around him.  He simply turned this devastating, terminal life challenge into something positive and beautiful to teach others what is important in life and that with God's help, anything is possible.

To me, that is someone who is INCONQUERABLE.  I am in awe of not only how Jared handled his cancer, but how his family sought to find the blessings and silver linings along their journey.  I would like to say that I have done that in my own journey, although not perfectly, but nevertheless, found the joy in the journey when times were tough and hope was lost.

We can all learn from Jared and his family.  Their story always reminds me that God is indeed mindful of us, has a plan for us, and loves us more than we can comprehend.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sol Survivors update

A few exciting things in the works for Sol Survivors!  First off, our paperwork is in!  We are hopefully one final step closer to becoming an official non-profit.  I couldn't be more thrilled (and overwhelmed).  Now is the waiting game and hopefully by the end of the year, we will have heard back from the IRS.  Crossing fingers!
Second...our support group is growing more!  We have added a few new members.  There is Reese, who is currently fighting Stage 4, Shaelyn a 7 year old girl fighting Stage 3, Christie from Mountain Home who is fighting Stage 3, and Courtney who is been in the clear for almost 5 years from Stage 1.
It is truly exciting to know that our group is reaching more and more people in our community.  I know that if nothing else, even without our education and awareness presentations, that this support group is important and NEEDED.  Every time we meet someone new, I have this undeniable feeling that we were supposed to come together, to meet, and to share our stories and lives with one another.  Each person is unique, incredible and brings something different to our group.  It is awesome!
We have a few schools scheduled for the Fall semester coming up and I'm excited to present our information and stories to another group of high school-aged kids!  I know that we are saving lives with this information.  My hope is that as we grow, we will be able to accommodate more schools, but for now, this is about all I can handle! :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sweet Shaelyn

About a year ago I learned of a 6 year old girl, Shaelyn, also living in Meridian, who had just been diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma.  When I first heard this, I immediately wanted to reach out to the family, but it wasn't until now that the stars aligned and we were able to meet.
After a couple of email exchanges, we were finally able to meet Shaelyn's mom at our support group. Shaelyn seems like a very special and strong girl.  She is undergoing Interferon treatment currently and doing very well considering the side effects that are typical with this drug.  I can't even imagine watching my young child go through this, it is just heartbreaking, but at the same time, inspiring that Shaelyn seems to be holding strong!  I hope and pray that Shaelyn has continued success and that her cancer stays in remission!