Guilty. Brain Cancer Attacked Me, But Surviving it Attacked My Family

When I was diagnosed with brain cancer, my plan was immediate- to put myself on the most likely, most successful path to recover from surgery and cancer, stay positive, and enjoy life with the ones I love.  As much as people talk about medicine and hospitals, I wasn’t worried about that.  I felt confident that I could find what I needed in that category. But my biggest weakness was in the part that I could control.  I felt trapped by the weather and feared accidents, isolation, dependency, depression and frustration on top of the cancer, so I took charge.

I made a plan- to get out.  It was a good, successful plan for what I thought would be my most likely, healthiest attempt at survival and lifestyle. I was playing my odds at staying around to raise both of my kids at least through high school. I needed seven plus years at minimum, but wanted so much more! So reflecting back on what I thought were my biggest threats and weaknesses, I ran. Some would say I ran away, but I say I ran to. I ran to better weather, where I wouldn’t slip on ice, could breathe fresh air, where I wanted to be outside around other people, where I could be independent and able to walk if I lost my driving again. Cancer takes a lot more than people often realize. It tried to take my soul, but I didn’t let it.

So this probably sounds to you, as it felt to me, like a take-charge plan. And it was. But remember, the title contains, “guilty,” and “attacked.” Unfortunately, there were side effects, mostly on my family, that caused more grief, pain, uncertainty, instability, and doubt that cancer can ever cause.  That was another result of my decision. Now my body feels healthy, yet my conscious feels guilty.

Do I regret it? Yes and no, and that makes me feel guilty too. I think staying would have caused as much, if not more, yet still different pain and problems on my family. Part of those, I’m certain would be my declining health and well-being.  I also feel to my core that I’d be dead, and I’m not saying that to justify my decision, I just do. Yet my decision itself caused so many problems. It’s not easy to make a big move, see your mom with cancer and post brain surgery, have your dad have to take over so many things but then have your mom struggle back into her place in the family. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to be the new kid, know who you can trust, and get involved when you hate being there in the first place. It’s not easy to move, take a new position, and have more responsibilities at home so your wife can be at her best. Cancer eats at the victim but the effects can take down the whole family.

Over time things slowly regulated, got better, and transitioned. Just now, after more than three and a half years, my family and I are starting to feel more normal, and my health is better than I ever thought it would be. We’re now past emergency mode and even doing some future planning. But I still feel guilty. That’s the part of cancer that lives on through treatment and chemotherapy. The guilt doesn’t go away because some of the treatment, recovery, and changes through cancer continue to cause pain. I didn’t choose cancer, but I did choose the path I knew I needed in order to be here today. And I feel guilty. So my next steps need to include treating my guilt by making these better times continue. I know I made the best choice, but I could use a little more proof, less guilt, and some forgiveness.

*This was inspired by the Daily Post Prompt on May 24, “Guilty.” I drafted it but didn’t finish in time to submit, but chose to publish on my blog anyway.

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