Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Survivor Guilt, what Gives?

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay in blog posts, I had a family emergency and was away for awhile but I am back!

One of the things I have thought about a lot lately has been the idea of survivor guilt. I amazed at how common this is with cancer survivors (myself included). Survivor guilt in a nutshell is being upset about being alive, wondering how you "made it" if you will, while other people don't. How come treatment worked for me and not someone else? Why did my cancer get caught early? Or why did mine that looked so bad get treated successfully while someone else with better prognosis didn't? Why can't treatment work for everyone? All common questions.(Here is a link that briefly sums it up /Survivor%20Guilt%20What%20Long-term%20Survivors%20Don%27t%20Talk%20About.pdf)

I think survivor guilt is a bit interesting these days as it really shows how much empathy and how compassionate many people are who have this type of guilt. I think it stems from the fact that we all know the fear and pain that cancer causes, and no one wants anyone to go through it.

I wish I had a good way, or tips to help people deal with these types of things but I don't. The only thing I do know is how different it is for everyone who has to deal with it. My struggle is different than what anyone else is going through. I just know this, we shouldn't feel bad about getting through something so horrible. The only way I have found to be an effective way to deal with it has been to try to give back to causes and to people who are going through cancer treatment.

The one "good thing" that comes from this survivor guilt I have found is that it really has made me aware of the struggle that not only cancer patients go through, but anyone with a terrible disease, and gets treated. The battle doesn't end when you leave the hospital. It gives me empathy and understanding that maybe I wouldn't of had otherwise. It is an ongoing struggle for many people, and one with no definite ending point.

Even over a year out of treatment I still feel survivor guilt. I always think a year is a "long time" and I should be over these things, but the more I talk to people the more I realize, it is not really that long. It can be exhausting. It rarely isn't. I worry that it may never leave, but I am beginning to manage it now. I think, for me, I can't "get rid" of these feelings, but accepting them for now, with hope down the road they will leave. With regards to survivor guilt, I know I am happy to be alive. I know I am happy I got through it all. And I know I feel terrible for the people and families that did not. These feelings lead to a lot of conflict, and accepting them rather than fighting them is my new strategy.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Next Year

One year into remission I have to say I am still a bit unsure of where things are going.

From talking to many people who have had cancer, and counselors and the like, I am starting to realize I am not alone in this feeling. It is nice to not feel alone in times like this. Many of the people around me seem to be getting over things quicker than me, and I have often wondered why I haven't been able to move past  as quickly.

One of the nice things about talking to say many people lately is that I realize I am not alone in my concerns, fears and whatever else comes across my mind. It is normal to feel this way only one year out of cancer treatment. I surely thought when I was getting treated that by the time the twelve months had passed after treatment I wouldn't worry about it anymore. It was one of the reasons I was slow to go seek out advice. I figured if I had of gone right away after treatment that would have been more "normal". Given that I had waited a year, or still felt that way after a year, I assumed I was alone in feeling like this and that I had missed "my time" for counsel. I am happy to say I was completely wrong about this (so don't worry if you feel the same way as I do, you have not missed your opportunity!) I have learned that people deal with things at different times, and you can only deal with things when you are ready to. For a lot of the emotional issues with cancer, I thought I could bury it down, and for about a year I could. I can't anymore.

The next year will be an interesting one. More check ups, more tests, but more of my life too. I am getting better at stressing less between check ups, but many days that can still bit hard with the odd ached and pain (is this head ache a brain tumor? for example). I am still getting by at work, it isn't going great, but it is going. I still struggle with many aspects of work, but I still work hard and put my time in each day. I hope this effort pays off. I hope this next year goes well, I have many things I look forward to (conferences, birthdays, vacations and holidays). Over this time I know I will still deal with cancer issues. Some old, some new.

Losing control of my life put things in a whole new perspective for me, and I hope it gives me some different perspective for this second year after cancer. As long as I stay healthy, I figure I will manage.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Raising Money for Cancer Research!

This week has been a pretty good week for me. I got through another three month check up and am happy to report I am still healthy. (It was on Wednesday, hence no post that day!)

So to celebrate I decided to talk about how I am giving back to the BCCF ( and how it is going so far.

Last year, I participated in the "Ride to Conquer Cancer". It was a huge part of my healing process and getting better after treatment. This event has given me the opportunity to meet several amazing people as well who are "running the ship" so to speak. They truly have a great team of people and I can't thank them enough!

There were two sides to this event for me, physically getting better, and then raising as much money as possible to go to the cancer foundation. Given that I was still going through chemo last year when I did it, I could only really email people in order to get donations, but this year so much more has been done already!

I am excited to say that this year I am a team captain for the same cycling event ( (I do the BC ride, but there are three others!). The team is called "Team Phoenix" ( and is just over ten people strong so far. Collectively we have raised over $13000 for cancer research, and on top of what was raised last year by myself and Sara, we have gotten $20000 into cancer research.

I never thought I would be able to raise as much money for one thing in my life. And perhaps more surprisingly was how generous I learned many people are. When you are working to a great goal, one that really helps people, you find a lot of help in places you may not expect it. Most of the money raised was obtained simply through asking. Unfortunately most people don't need a story to support a cause like this, they have one of their own. But this year too, events have been planned (spin-a-thons, craft fairs, bar nights, selling coffee) and it has been going really well. My goal is for the team to cross $25000, and I think with the great people involved, we will get there.

It is great to see how the money has helped people already. Over the last few years, the money raised through the ride has support breast cancer projects, pancreatic cancer, and imaging equipment. I am a person who has been in imaging equipment that was purchased directly from funds from this event. It is a great feeling to know I am helping others the same way.

Sadly, the ride doesn't exist everywhere, but there are tons of walks, runs, and different events around. I encourage everyone to check out their regional or national cancer agencies (or any other disease) and see how you can help out and give back in any way you can. I will do the ride for as long as I can, and although it is a long ride (Vancouver to Seattle) it is nothing compared to what I went through with cancer. And my belief that this is helping is all the motivation I need to keep going!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The New Me, I didn't Intend on Being so Different

One of the terms I have hated most when I finished cancer treatment was "New Normal". Doctors referred to it, counselors refer to it and a lot of survivors refer to it. I fought it for as long as I could. Recently, I have started to accept the fact that I am not the same person I was before I had gone through my battle with cancer.

I didn't want to be different. Like most people I wanted to go back to the way things were but, I am starting to realize that probably won't ever happen.

I want to make it clear that not all the new things are bad things. I like the fact that if I have a bad day at work, it doesn't ruin my day. I like that vacation is something I actually appreciate now (not being work work work all the time is a good thing).

There are a lot of things I do not care for however. I hate how easily frustrated and stressed out I get over little things. I am terribly uncomfortable meeting new people. I got so used to not being around people that I kind of forgot how to. Some days I am better at covering that fact up then others.

I still get tired really easily. People just don't seem to understand that one, no matter how many times I tell them. My oncologist told me it should take around 5 years to get back to the shape I was in (from a perspective of energy level, blood being "normal", etc.) and I am only a year out. I know people want to forget about those things but it is an added source of frustration when I have to constantly remind people. By the end of almost every day I am so physically and mentally exhausted that I can't/don't want to do very much then sit down and do nothing. I wish it was accepted by the world around me.I find it hard many days to do things I want to do the new way I want to, and people just expect me to do things the old way. I have tried for a long time to be "the old me" but it has really been difficult.

These are just a few things that are different these days, but like I said in the title, I didn't intend on being different after cancer but I am. I am not sure I even know what that means most days. Finding a sense of self and who I am (what I want to do, etc.) is a daily struggle it seems. 

My priorities are different. And I am still trying to come to grips with who I actually am in this "new normal" state.