It was wonderful having nearly everyone I follow online together that night discussing all the reasons for a cancer patient's guilt, whether derserved or most likely, not. I understood every single one and all the questions associated with guilt, have been following me ever since.
Why do I let it get to me?
How is this my fault?
I'm sorry for causing my husband such worry.
How dare I feel sorry myself when others have it so much worse...and not just in our cancer world, but life in general.
Then the other day, I flipped through a women's magazine, the October issue, to ponder an article. "The Breast Q & A" Questions you still need answered about breast cancer.
Turns out I had all the answers, so maybe I wasn't exactly the target audience for this article, but I continued on to the end to read their "risk-slashing checklist."
And there it was, in print, no less. Proof, it's my fault.
Breast feed, in one study, women at high genetic risk, (such as myself) were 45 percent less likely to develop breast cancer if they breast fed for more than a year.
My children are adopted, so not only did I not give birth at a fairly young age, or ever. I screwed up even more by never breast feeding.
I knew it. I started to count the ways my cancer was my fault.
I started menstruating in 6th grade. My smarter friends waited until 8th.
I was raised on sugary treats. Ice cream and brownies are my poison of choice to this day, though I usually make my own baked goods to avoid all the artificial ingredients and preservatives found in supermarket brands, but the joke is on me. Sugar has been the culprit all along. It's my understanding, sugar is cancer's food of choice...and I've yet to give it up or dairy, for that matter.
So, there it is. More guilt. More ways I've screwed up.
I haven't worked out all summer. I've gained five pounds, maybe more.
I don't want to blame myself for these things, but clearly I'm increasing my risk for recurrence. I know how badly I feel now. I can't begin to accept the guilt I'll feel if or when it comes back. Like many cancer survivors, I imagine it's still there somewhere, waiting for someday.
I remember in the weeks after diagnosis, while waiting for surgery, I'd visualize the cancer being sucked out, taken away for good. I really believed in the power of that image.
I don't know why I can't do that now. Why can't I believe in the power of healing? Have faith in good news? Maybe it's because I know it's not enough. Perhaps if I tried harder, worked at it more --
Ran my ass off
Said goodbye to sugar, alcohol and my beloved ice cream
Would it be reminiscent of my decision to have a bilateral mastectomy instead of lumpectomy? I slept better then believing I'd done all I could. I fought with all I had...Then.
Now, more than two years later I've gotten sloppy, complacent. I'm falling back into old, unhealthy habits and no one would be to blame for a recurrence but myself. Regardless of statistics.
So, that's where guilt comes in and stays in.
My plan is to skip dessert and go to the gym tomorrow. I wish I had a buddy to go along. Someone else running on a treadmill, not to lose weight, but to lose the cancer cells that may be closing in on us. Believing we left them in the dust would go a long way in unloading this guilt.