Friday, July 13, 2007

Cancer Guilt

There is a lot of guilt associated with cancer. For me it seems endless. When I resolve one thing I feel guilty about, I start feeling guilty about something else but there's always something. Sometimes there are many things I feel guilty about.

When I first started thinking about the cancer I thought I must have done something to my body to create this cancer in myself. Maybe it was that cigarette I smoked in 8th grade. Maybe my vegetarianism somehow robbed my body of something it needed. Maybe I was too promiscuous or smoked too much pot in college. Were my maternity pants too tight? I must have used the wrong tampons. Or maybe I shouldn't have used them at all. My self-accusing thoughts abound.

Then I started feeling guilty that I was robbing my children of this time in their lives. Maja hasn't had her pictures taken yet mostly because we don't have the time between chemo treatments and hospital trips but partially because we're spending all our money on prescriptions and medical bills. I feel guilty that almost every dollar we have goes to me and my needs, not to them. I feel guilty that Tristan is so angry lately. I think I've been trying to talk to him about cancer too much. He's having a hard time with it.

Now I'm starting to feel guilty that I wasn't prepared enough for any of this. Perhaps I should have had a cancer savings. I also feel guilty that I can't take some of the side effects like mouth sores. I feel guilty when I have to ask for help. I don't like not being able to do things on my own. One of those things is mowing my lawn. That's just a vanity issue, right? I can live without a mowed lawn. I won't get sicker if my grass is several inches higher. I want my lawn mowed but I don't need it. Same with the mouth sores. I can live with them. It hurts bad but no one can see them and I just have to eat slower and maybe not talk as much. I could use the $25 for the Magic Mouthwash and put it toward getting Maja's pictures taken.

I feel guilty about not working when I can. There are probably five good days between treatments when I could physically function. I should be working. On that same note, I feel guilty about going out or having fun. If I'm capable of having fun, I should be capable of working. And I should definitely not be having a drink and making it harder for my body to bounce back from treatment.

I feel very guilty about not being sick all the time because I know there are other people out there who are very ill during chemo. On the other hand, when I am sick from chemo, I feel guilty that I'm not stronger (insert guilt for not treating my body better pre-cancer) and that I need help taking care of my children/house/self.

It's just a huge cycle of guilt. It's not healthy and is incredibly irrational, I know. It will never completely go away. Guilt should be listed as one of the side effects of cancer.


tuckermillie said...

Well honey, guilt is such a female thing, isn't it?? I honestly don't think men have those same thoughts with treatment for prostate cancer!
Anyway, the end of chemo is in sight, and you can just focus on wellness. Guilt is useless. Sort of like worry. Remember, you can't take good care of your kids and Dan if you aren't taking care of yourself first.
Love, Mom

Stone-Hearted Woman said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer on 24 July 2007.
I feel guilty because cervical cancer is the preventable one, the one that you can avoid if you go to the doctor each year, which I didn't do.
I feel guilty, too, because I've let down the people who need me by not taking better care of myself.

Hillary said...

A note on guilt: I've found that I can't worry too much about it and be the cancer poster child. Here's something that works for me...I let myself be completely selfish and have a 100% "Me" day on Sundays. I ask people to do things for me on those days and let people mow my lawn without guilt. I let someone else watch my kids for awhile and they I hog them when I want them. It's enough to refresh me for the rest of the week, and overall it evens out my crazy moods because I know I have that one day when I can feel what I want and do what I want, no questions asked.

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