Reflections on guilt, by Suleika Jaouad: guilt for getting cancer, guilt for burdening loved ones, guilt for unhealthy behaviours or environments, guilt for being healthy when someone close to you is not. While I felt more anger, frustration and depression than guilt, I did share her shame and envy over those who remained in the ‘kingdom of the well’. Quote:
The belief that cancer happens for a reason can be an attractive line of thinking — where there’s an effect, there must be a cause. This is what a logical mind tells us, but it’s usually untrue. Even when a patient is found to have lung cancer after decades of smoking, is cancer still the patient’s “fault”? Even if there is a correlation to the choices a person makes in life, cancer is always deeply unfair.
Guilt takes other forms for patients, like feeling shame for the envy we feel about those who are in good health; feeling guilty about the disproportionate amount of attention we receive, and even guilt about surviving cancer when so many others have not. I’ve learned that guilt is made less powerful when you confront it — writing about it, talking about it, bringing my fears and thoughts to the fore, out into the open. For me, the cure for guilt, to the extent that there is one, has been sunlight.