Dealing With Mesothelioma Survivor’s Guilt

Health & Wellness

I can honestly say that my journey with mesothelioma has been filled with so many emotions: hills, valleys, the fear of the unknown and even bouts of grief. 

In 2018 I wrote my first article for The Mesothelioma Center. I wondered at the time who really wanted to hear my story. But then again, my journey is so unique and rare, who wouldn’t want to hear a story of hope?

Until 2019, I hadn’t met anyone who had peritoneal mesothelioma who looked like me. The average mesothelioma patient is a white male in his 60s. I am a woman of color, and I was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma when I was just 21 years old. 

Forging Connections With Others 

I get many emails and messages on social media from people who have been impacted by mesothelioma in some way. However, one Instagram message I received a couple of years ago was different. A young woman named Lynn said she was hesitant to reach out. She said she had been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer and was up all night, praying, crying and searching the internet to find more information. She kept looking and eventually stumbled across one of my articles. She said she knew she had to connect with me. 

Since that message on Instagram, we had talks on the phone, I prayed with her and we texted often. I even tried to fix her up with my younger brother. We were planning to meet in person, but it never happened. We’ve all heard the saying that life gets in the way, and it did. We both got busy, I moved out of state and our communication trickled off. 

One thing I set out to do this year is to send someone a text when they come to mind and give them a note of encouragement. I thought of my Instagram friend recently as I was driving to work. I said to myself, when I get there I’m going to text her to check up on her. When I got to work, I forgot! 

Yesterday I was uploading something to Facebook for my church, looking through my friends list for people to invite. While I was inviting people Lynn’s profile came up and I reminded myself to reach out to her. So, after I made the post for the church, I went to her page to see what she had been up to. I was not prepared for what I read. 

There were so many messages from people saying they missed her so much and wished she was still alive. I kept scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. I scrolled for a good 30 minutes until it really hit me that she had died. No, not yesterday or last week or last month. She died two years ago, the same month I moved to Florida.

Instantly I got a lump in my throat as tears started to well up in my eyes. I kept scrolling, reading all the beautiful messages and heartfelt notes that hundreds of people wrote on her page. I couldn’t believe it! How could I have missed this? Two years? 

Managing Survivor’s Guilt 

In the midst of grieving her loss I felt awful. I wish I could have been there for her. Why did I not find out until now? Why did mesothelioma take her life? She was only 32 years old and wasn’t able to have any kids.

So many thoughts ran through my mind and I gave myself a moment to cry. One thing I want to point out is that crying is a natural human emotion that should not be held in. When you feel like crying, cry! Let it out and release those emotions. 

When I thought I was finished crying, I called my pastor to tell her, but the tears returned. I told my husband, and the tears kept falling. They both reminded me that I’m right where I need to be, sharing my story of hope and inspiration with others. 

They reminded me of how grateful I am to be alive and to have children even after I was told I couldn’t have any more. They also reminded me of how God allowed my path to cross with Lynn’s for a reason. Even though I wasn’t there toward the end, I know she appreciated the words of encouragement, the moments of prayer we had, the laughs and conversations. They helped her when she needed them the most. 

Learning this news really put things in perspective. Not that I didn’t have some perspective to begin with, but the shock of it all added another layer. I was definitely in a state of shock. This is real life, not a fairy tale. 

Every article I write, every word I speak when I share my experiences and my story, are real. It’s a true story that I’m so grateful and blessed to share with others because some don’t make it far enough to share their story with the world. 

So, is survivor’s guilt real? I’ll put it this way: It can be for some. As for me, no. And here’s why. I don’t feel guilty, I feel blessed. I’m grateful to be able to share my journey, my testimony of being a peritoneal mesothelioma survivor 16 years and counting. Just like my path crossed with my dear friend Lynn, I’m sure God has many more people my story will reach who I can help. 

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