Sunday, May 27, 2007
Guilt By Remission?
I was struck by life's irony this weekend. I stood there next to one of my closest friends watching the cruel twist of fate and the uncertainty cancer brings into our lives. Tears fell from my eyes before I even had the chance to protest them. I stood there motionless, Morgen's hand holding my own as I watched Kelly Jo Dowd's story play out in front of my eyes. She too had fought and battled breast cancer. She had moved on thinking that her cancer battle was behind her, until it came back and forced her back onto the front lines again. Her daughter was 10 years old when she fought her first fight in this ring, and 3 years later, she was hit with a fatal punch loosing her life. That really hit me hard as I saw my 10 year old son running down the stairs with his friends. I am so determined not to face this beast again but the truth is breast cancer has a mind of its own and its own agenda. What may or may not come is not in my hands?
As I have moved forward, gaining higher ground in this struggle I have put all my strength into living and not allowing this cancer to take anymore away from me than it already has. I have put a face on to the world with a smile forcing myself to stay strong, not conceding anything. I have tried my best not to open the strongest floodgates and the real depths of what this beast has truly taken away from my mind, body and spirit. But living in the shadow of breast cancer is like living on the edge of an approaching battle that you know you cannot avoid. You feel the fear rising as the beast circles and tries to push its way into your sacred space and still you cannot charge fully onto the battle field just yet. You are armed and ready in your armor but you are held back, at the edge watching the beast taunt you from the outer edges. At times you feel the need to scream at the monster to just get it over with, to end the overwhelming odds gaining in numbers against you. Then you feel the fight well up within, even as you pray with all your might to stay back away from the heat of the battle. But then the gnawing rises up from the pit of your stomach telling you to stay vigilant, to keep the oil burning and to be prepared, saving some of your energy for the next fight.
As I have begun to heal I have come to view my "remission" as a double edged sword. The simple freedom of waking up every morning and knowing my body will not have to endure chemotherapy, is a blessing to be acknowledged in and of it self. I have come to terms with the bone pain, the on again off again nausea that lingers and the loss of mobility in my arm. I am alive and that is far more important than those hiccups. But still, there is always the uncertainty of tomorrow. Do I live in the shadow of fear? No, I do not, but I do live in the shadow of this beastly cancer everyday. As a survivor in remission I am blessed to be alive able to begin thinking about my future. But there is also the other side of remission that eats away at you. This new counterpart is guilt and it is a storm that rises slowly striking unexpectedly. Guilt is a powerful enemy as it attacks cutting deep into your already bleeding soul. I myself have felt this guilt time and time again as it strikes every time I see a fellow sister walking back into the beasts’ lair or hear word that she has succumb to its deathly grip. Remission is a wonderful and burdensome place to be both at the same time.
Yes, I am blessed and I thank my Maker everyday that I am given an extension on this life of mine. I am grateful when I sit within the company of friends raising our glasses or when I hear my boys’ laugher moving through the house and in to my heart. I long for more time as I mourn the loss my sisters in arms knowing all too well that my day may come. So I raise my heart today making this vow never to forget those who have fallen and I make this promise to my loved ones right here, right now to fight hard, to live loudly and to love unconditionally for the remainder of this journey we call life.