Guilt

The beginning of this guilt. First a feeling of difference, of feeling what I have isn't serious, not the real thing, starting from reading blogs by people with mets--meaning the breast cancer has metastasized. Reading reviews of books by these people--feeling I haven't really had cancer until it's moved from the breast to crack into my spine. That it's only, in the words of one blogger," garden variety" cancer. Which explains why the oncologist and his nurses seem nonchalant. What I have isn't deadly. (Not yet.)

Then hearing about a friend with breast cancer--a double mastectomy, mutual friends told me Sunday, with chemo and radiation,. What stage is she? I asked. Stage 1, they said. Which didn't make sense. Someone with stage 1 wouldn't have chemo and radiation, I don't think. She was having a hard time, they said. I emailed her. She emailed back. She seemed reticent. Single mastectomy. I named my meds. She said she was on pretty much the same. That it had been very difficult. I felt guilty that side effects weren't wiping me out. Though I get days in a row when I'm tired and depressed. But now I feel fine. When I feel fine I stop feeling sorry for myself. I feel guilty.

L reminded me that I'm not taking Cytoxan, which is one element of the usual ACT chemo brew--Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol--because I have a platelet disorder. Cytoxan could cause a blood clot, which is more dangerous than the cancer. So I'm getting less poison than I would normally. It could be the Cytoxan that's causing my friend's side effects. But everyone is different. I'm lucky that the anesthesia didn't make me sick. My cancer-sister in Marin was throwing up for days from the anesthesia as well as the sedative they gave her when they installed her port. Do I feel guilty in regard to her? No. I also read on breastcancer.org that there's a slightly better chance of killing the cancer cells when you have chemo every two weeks instead of three. I've gotten Adriamycin every three weeks because I need the extra time for my blood to climb back to normal. Other people get a shot to beef up their blood, so they can be chemo-ed every fortnight, but I can't have the shot--because of my high platelet count.

Is guilt truly what I'm feeling? Not uneasiness? Guilt that I should be suffering more. Guilt that I'm faking it. That I don't really have cancer. That I'm not really getting chemo. How can I be saying/thinking this? You don't really have breast cancer. You are faking it. Is this a manifestation of denial? No, it's a transmogrification of the essential feeling: that I do not deserve to live. That I should perish soon. I was not made to live a long time. I was made to live tragically. Different from other people. I was made to be mourned. And to mourn while I was alive. Because I did not deserve to be alive. So living was treacherous. I had to live secretly, secretively. Under the radar.

Let me try to find logic in this. That I feel guilty because I feel good even though I'm supposed to be dying? That seems like it. The Cancer Bitch who would not die even though it was in the cards. She shuffled the deck. Used sleight of hand to change her fate. And then cried out: I am alive, please forgive me.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had the guilt too because although I have IBC and the Doctor says it has spread to bone I am receiving NO treatment other than Tamoxifen. People have a hard time understanding that I don't have "normal" cancer. Has it become that commonplace now that people just shrug it off as no big deal? On the other hand I don't have insurance or money either and would probably be treated differently if I did. I enjoy reading your blog.
Nanci

Garry said...

Just wait till survivor guilt kicks in--that one really sucks. A few years after you're cancer-free, you can start to feel crappy because you haven't taken full advantage of surviving--you're not grateful at least a dozen times a day, you haven't made more of your life...the permutations are rich and endless.

Jen said...

I have the guilts too. I was able to have Herceptin in the adjuvent setting, and I feel like it was only due to the fickle hand of fate. There are thousands of women who are now Stage IV and didn't get the opportunity to have the drug when they were early-stage.