Survivor Guilt

The Inconvenient Truth of Survivor Guilt

When I got my breast cancer diagnosis in October 2014, my world comes crashing down. But with an amazing medical team and treatment plan on my side, instead of worrying about dying, I went into fight mode 

Fast forward to the new year’s eve. While at my routine check-up before chemotherapy, and feeling the best I had in so long, I remember just wanting to go home to my kids and use that energy to make memories with them.

In reality what happened was, I mentioned some heart pain and was rushed straight into an ECG. While most people were counting down the ball drop, I was literally going through a CT scan. Happy 2015 alright. That day finished off with a cardiologist sitting on my bed and telling me that I had a blood clot inside my heart. Cancer wasn’t going to kill me but there is a VERY good chance this was. We sat together and cried. She made sure the nurse had taught me how to properly inject myself with blood thinners once a day in hopes of getting the blood clot to dissipate. Unfortunately, not even this was a guarantee because if that blood clot dissipated on the part that was attached to my heart it will fall and my heart would stop. She told me to go home and hug my children.

Then I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast Cancer. It had spread to my brain and I heard the words, “You have two years to live, at best.” I moved through so many emotions with some really dark days that followed. Cue the constant doctor appointments, mini seizures and news that the brain radiation I had earlier only worked for a few months. While I waited for news on a craniotomy and the tumours to grow big enough to ensure they were found, you could say I was going through the motions. I grasped for those two years I was given and made a promise to hang on. 

I came out of the dark and decided to enjoy life and every single moment with appreciation, even for the littlest things. I wasn’t going to wait to do things tomorrow, I was going to push through my sad and tired days and show up and be present for my children and the people I had in my life. 

Looking back, during my time at the hospital I was often referred to as a unicorn, but not in the “lucky me” good way. I was the girl that if there was a 1% chance of a bad side effect, it happened to me. My cancer and treatments have more than once tried to end my time here, and yet here I am. 

I have now become the unicorn on the positive side of things. Now, I know at any moment things can change, and they will. Until then, I’m doing my best to focus on how lucky I am. I appreciate how fragile life is and am appreciating all the little things that make living so great. That’s not to say the side effects, physically and mentally aren’t tough, but I’m living, after all. I’m able to navigate through all this to live such an amazing life. A life that I was told was going to be taken from me years ago.

But with all of this hope also comes guilt. At times, I feel so guilty just living. I think of the people that have felt bad for my kids and I, who have lost loved ones, friends I have had passed away and the guilt sets in. I think, “I’m not supposed to be here.” On the days where my life seems normal.

There is so much guilt that crops up when I meet new people and make new friends. I feel selfish, like I don’t deserve to or it’s not fair to make new friends knowing I’m on borrowed time. The fact that I could cause more pain to others for having just entered their life is unbearable.

Of course, I wouldn’t change anything about surpassing my expiry date, so to speak. I want to live for a very long time. I want to hang on tight to this life no matter what, but I also feel so incredibly bad that I’m doing so well and that I get a second chance at life, while others around me are not.

When I was first given this life sentence I constantly asked the world, “why me?” Now I wonder why I get to be on the other side of things, why am I the exception that gets to keep going for however long I get to.

Today as I write this, it’s been five years since finding out, four years since being incurable and two years from when my life was supposed to end. Yet here I am, living. How have I been so lucky to be beating the odds so stacked up against me? I am grateful and very aware of how lucky I am to have been given this extra time. I will never for one second take this life for granted. – Adriana Capozzi

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50 Carroll Street Toronto, Ontario Canada M4M 3G3
Phone: 416 220 0700
Registered Charity #: 892176116RR0001

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