Growing up with a fairly debilitating anxiety disorder, I was no stranger to fight or flight symptoms and was challenged daily. Even as a preschooler, I would spend an unusual amount of time obsessing over the possibility of having a serious medical condition. A headache meant a brain tumor. An abdominal cramp meant that my appendix was ready to burst. You get the picture. Ironically, however, one of my biggest fears growing up was having cancer at a young age.
Perhaps it's a mere coincidence that I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 20. If this doesn't give new meaning to the command, "Face your fears head on," then I don't know what does.
Five years ago I saw the movie, The Fault in Our Stars. The agonizing tale of doomed love between cancer-stricken teens struck me to my core. This engrossing, passionate, and suspenseful film made me question life's fairness. I left the theater with a sense of appreciation for my health and well-being. I left the theater thinking, "Thank God this will never happen to me." I left the theater without knowing that in a few years I would understand the dark depths of Hazel Grace's thoughts and fears surrounding her diagnosis.
For anyone who has seen the movie, you know that the ending does not disclose Hazel Grace's fate. The movie does not end with her in remission from lung cancer. In fact, the ending is quite realistic. There are millions young adults who cannot say that they are in remission from cancer, either.
I am one of the lucky ones.
This is where survivor's guilt comes into play. Survivor's guilt is described as a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress experienced by someone who has survived a traumatic event. That powerful feeling of remorse screams, "You survived when someone else died." I cannot help but feel badly that my body reacted wonderfully to the standard Hodgkin's treatment, while other people spend years chasing the cure.
Here are some tips to cope with these thoughts and emotions:
Share feelings with family and friends.
Use mindfulness techniques.
Do something good for others.
If these feelings become too intense and overwhelming, please reach out to a trained professional. There are many people who want to help. Think of all the people who care deeply about you. You’ve been given the gift of survival, so rather than rejecting that gift because you somehow feel undeserving, share it with those who love you.
All my love,
Hi, I'm Lia. I have Hodgkin's lymphoma, but Hodgkin's lymphoma does not have me.