Each time I’m down at MDA, I find myself noticing the patients who are in various forms of treatment in a deeper and even more compassionate way. Particularly those who are undergoing chemotherapy. I am all too familiar with the pale, yellowish-colored skin, lack of hair or thinning hair and the fatigue in their eyes. During my mom’s and my check-ups last week, seeing the patients in the hallways and waiting rooms hit me hard. I found it heartbreaking because I remember all too well that I was in similar shoes for a long while. Often it was the little things that reminded me of those days. For example, when at the hotel restaurant for breakfast or dinner, I was keenly aware of my good appetite and could order anything I wanted off the menu. The days of searching the menu and only ordering broth and tea are past for now.
The contrast between my good health now and their situation is difficult to comprehend. I’m still thinking about those patients knowing it’s not fair and makes no sense that I am well and they are not. I was able to experience one more visit with my doctor who told me last week that I still have no evidence of disease. NED. Almost seems cruel. (My mom’s lymphoma is still stable. Good news for her, too.)
To make the situation even more difficult, my fellow Appendilooza bud, Randy, lost his battle with signet ring cell appendix cancer last Friday. I stopped on our way out of Houston to see him one last time. I was able to hold Randy’s hand again and tell him what an amazing man he was, what he meant to me, that the rest of the Appendiloozas would keep fighting in his honor and some other things. He was not able to speak but he held my hand, squeezed it and opened his eyes a few times while I was talking. Those were powerful moments. His wife texted me later that he took his last breaths surrounded by his family only a few hours after I left. I feel so lucky to have seen him one more time.
I’m definitely suffering from survivor’s guilt. It’s extremely emotional, gut-wrenching and has brought me to tears several times. But I’ve decided that one of the ways I can cope with it is to remember that I am always connected to those strangers and friends, pray that they regain their health and try to live my live with intention. It’s easy to get lulled into thinking everything is going to be fine. But I’m determined once again to honor those folks by grabbing life and going for it. I imagine they would want that for me as I want it for them, too.
Randy is gone too soon. I will live my life remembering what a positive impact he had on me and hope to do the same for others. As Randy used to say, “Carpe Diem!”
Ivanna: Your post was wonderful and expresses what we caregivers feel, also. I don’t want cancer (been there, done that!) but when I watch Jim I too, feel survivors guilt. Thanks for sharing. Marion
Ivanna , for me it’s ten years later and survivor guilt never rubs off. ever. oh well, I’m not sure it should.
Thanks for this post. Such a good lesson on compassion.
Ivanna, what an articulate expression of a complex feeling! Great post!