As wonderful as this year has been for me in almost every way, it has also been a very sad year for many close to me. There have been too many losses, and too many were tragic and seemed senseless.
The one thing they don't tell you when you are declared "N.E.D" (No Evidence of Disease - aka Remission) is what it will be like to watch others lose their battles. I haven't known many people with cancer, and those that I had were very old when diagnosed. Not that it makes their deaths less sad, but it seems less tragic when someone dies in their 80s versus their 50s, or 30s, or younger...
But once you are diagnosed with cancer, you become part of a club where no one asks for membership. And you make connections through this membership. In my case, they were actually re-connections. Around the time I was diagnosed, I was told of two other people I knew who had gotten similar news. One a beloved professor with breast cancer, the other a classmate from college with leukemia. Both cancers considered relatively "curable" in these days. However, both have died within the last three months after relatively short but extremely brave and faithful fights. And I am awash with mixed emotions that I don't really know how to handle.
I know how I should feel...Grateful.
And I am, believe me.
I have almost grown sick of how many times I've used the words "thankful" and "grateful" in this blog over the last year. But it truly is the emotion that I feel most often. I have soaked in the last 12 months with the kind of awareness and joy that I think is unique to one who was told it would be a much different year. I was overwhelmed many time this year with the recognition of just how blessed I was to experience things others take for granted. A birthday surrounded by friends, multiple vacations to see loved ones, a body healthy enough to run for miles, snuggling new babies...I could go on and on. I am so very grateful.
But when I heard about these deaths, I also was awash with guilt. A fellow survivor put a name to it for me - Survivor's Guilt. I thought that was something reserved for war veterans or plane crash survivors. But it is completely appropriate for what I am feeling. Why have I survived and not them? That is the overriding emotion I feel.
My friends and family have tried to console me in the only way they know how.
"God has big plans for you"
"There are still things He wants you to do here"
And I know that they mean well. I know that they are so grateful that I am still here. But I can't help but feel uncomfortable. Didn't Jenny deserve to get married and have kids? Didn't Deb have plans to watch her daughter graduate from High School? Jenny wanted to run a marathon, why didn't she get a chance to run her race and I did? Heck, I didn't even have to go through chemo. I complained last week about how I broke my brush, pulling it through hair that reaches well down my back.
The guilt would be crushing, absolutely unbearable, if not for one thing.
My faith that God does have a plan, and His plan always works for the good of those who love him. I know that these loved ones who have gone on before me, were believers in God. I know this because they made it clear, every single day of their struggle here on earth. And because of our faith, I know that they are fully healed right now. They have been welcomed home by Jesus and will never suffer again. And for whatever reason we are left here to continue our lives on earth, God has a plan for that as well.
I have an appointment tomorrow morning with Dr. R. I had my follow up ultrasound and blood test last week and will learn the results tomorrow. I, of course, would welcome any and all prayers that they continue to come back clear. But tonight, I am resting in the assurance that it all rests in God's merciful hands. And that one day, whether here or in heaven, I too will be completely healed.
Here's to a Happy New Year, this one has been too sad. I pray that each of you recognize the blessings in your own lives this year. Hold your loved ones a little tighter and soak up the joy.
Bring on 2013.