When Just Surviving Isn't Enough
By Christie Goodfellow
It’s October. Everyone dons pink and bands together to create awareness for fighting breast cancer.
I suppose this also means it’s time for me to write my obligatory “hug a survivor” pep talk.
I’m very grateful to have survived breast cancer and to be cancer free for seven years now, but this year, I’m feeling a bit different. This year I haven’t felt successful – I’ve been feeling but a crushing amount of anxiety and guilt.
To be honest, I don’t have many or any friends who really understand what I’ve gone through.
Yes…I know someone’s mom or aunt or grandma who always graciously offers advice and tries to find some common ground but it’s not the same.
I have no peers who faced a deadly disease at twenty-five and still really haven’t dealt with it. For seven years, I’ve pretty much just ignored that cancer happened to me, and now at thirty-two, I’m just now realizing that my mid-twenties were taken from me. The part of life where a person tries to figure out her job, her relationships – pretty much her entire self – didn’t happen to me.
The result? Every day I feel like I’ve wasted the last seven years. I wonder….what have I accomplished? Nothing of note other than surviving. But what happens when just simply surviving isn’t enough?
To those of you who immediately respond with … “well at least you’re here” or “it could have been worse” … you can talk to me when you’ve had to look in the mirror with clumps of hair in your hand and decide whether or not you’re ready to shave your own head.
Yes. It could have killed me. So many women do not make it. To be clear…I don’t feel guilty for surviving. I feel guilty that I’m not doing anything with this chance.
I go to work every day fully realizing that what I do doesn’t make the world a better place or help people. I’ve bounced from job to job and city to city looking for my passion only to find that I don’t feel relatively passionate about anything. I feel completely unsure of where to go from here to create happiness.
Is this cancer’s fault? To be honest, I’m not sure. I’ve always been a relatively restless person. What I do know is that what I need is not another friend wearing pink but a friend who is willing to try a bunch of new things with me while I’m trying to find what I love. A friend who is willing to text me or invite me along to something out of my comfort zone or to introduce me to new people.
It’s true that each survivor is different. Maybe I’m the only one to feel this way but as we’re coming into a month completely dedicated to creating awareness and celebrating survivors maybe we should start asking ourselves “is surviving enough?”
Maybe instead of celebrating surviving, we should really look to how to create an environment where women who have beaten cancer can THRIVE. Because for us, it’s not enough to just be here. We want to make sure that we’re here for a reason. Whatever reason that may be.
To my fellow thrivers…yes….we lived. Now let’s make sure we’re LIVING.