Survivor Guilt-Carrying the Torch

Not even one month into the new year and a young woman I grew up with lost her battle to breast cancer. I remember the day that another classmate inboxed me to tell me about her diagnosis and asked me to reach out to her via facebook.

Over the next few weeks, I would read about how hard the chemo was on her body and her subsequent trips to the ER and hospital. All the while, I am cheering her on to victory, encouraging her from my own treatment experiences and praying for her wellness.

NOTHING HAS BEEN HARDER FOR ME THAN SEEING ANOTHER WOMAN DIE FROM THE SAME DISEASE THAT I MANAGED TO OVERCOME. It saddens me deeply because I realize that a) that could have been me b) I see the impact that her death has on her friends, family and loved ones and c) I wonder when the other shoe will fall for me.

With each death, I very small part of me dies with her. A dismal part of my heart and faith are chipped away. She fought as hard as I did, she had reasons to live, she had people that loved her and she didn't do anything to deserve this dreadful disease.

I know that other people suffer from survivor guilt as well-soldiers, car wreck survivors, mass shooting survivors, etc. While we emerge as grateful and "blessed", we carry the burden of knowing that people under the same circumstances didn't fare as well as us. And it's a heavy burden.

Since we most likely will never know why our fate took a different path, we are charged with making a positive impact in the world. Our survival stories are now testimonies to the strength of the human spirit. For some, they are testaments to one's faith. To others, they are documented medical success stories. Whatever you claim as your saving grace, use your story to educate, empower and uplift the next person who may be faced with the same life challenge.

I like to light candles daily. The beautiful flame is like a breast cancer patient who shined brightly and lit the path for those who will follow her. When that flame dies out, it smolders sending a faint reminder that it was lit. I will never let their flame die completely out. I will carry the torch higher. I will shine brighter because "she" fuels my flame. Rest in peace Christine Allsup.

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