Tuesday, March 24, 2015

not survivors' guilt

I do not consider myself a cancer survivor.

I had surgery to remove a very small something that I couldn't feel and that didn't make me ill. The something was so small that it wasn't even there by the time of the surgery; a prior biopsy had gotten it all. As small as I am, the surgery left me essentially unscathed. The very small something was deemed so small that I was allowed to forgo some of the more arduous cancer treatments. I did not "survive" cancer; if anything, I survived two-months-of-intense-worrying that I brought upon myself.

I am not a survivor, yet I did survive, and I feel guilty. Not that I survived, but that I survived and have decided not to take tamoxifen (or any aromatase inhibitors, should the oncologist suggest one instead). This whole thing has been relatively easy (except for the worrying), and so many other people have suffered through cancer that isn't curable or preventable, and here is this wonderful cancer-preventative drug offered to me, and I push it away because I can't live with the side effects.

Can't live with! What about people who have to do real chemo? Those are some side effects right there, much tougher than little old tamoxifen side effects. I read message boards and facebook groups full of people complaining about tamoxifen, some who attribute everything under the sun to it. Despite the misery, many of these people are resigned to the whole 5 or 10 years' course, for their children or their husbands' or their grandbabies' sakes, they say. I admire them for their tenacity, since I barely lasted 2 weeks on the stuff before I said no thank you, I'll take my chances with recurrence probability.

I have been so lucky, what with the nothing surgery and the exemption from radiation. The universe made things much easier for me than it could have, and here I am slapping its face.


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