When you know someone that has a terrible illness and think about what they’ve been feeling, would you identify guilt as one of those emotions? During my breast cancer journey, I felt guilt about what everyone else had to sacrifice or did for me. It’s nice being the center of attention when you’ve accomplished something good or when you’re celebrating a special day, but when you need a ride to your appointments, ask someone to sit with you, need them to cook, clean and take care of extra responsibilities, that’s not the kind of attention you’d wish for.
In many ways, guilt was the flipside of gratitude. I appreciated every little itty bitty thing that someone did for me. At the same time, I resented that they had to do it because my treatments made me weak and needy. It was self-induced guilt. I didn’t do anything bad or wrong that warranted my guilt. It simply happened.
Here’s a grand guilt-inducing example. Jeff loves traveling internationally. He’s been to South Korea, China, Peru, Scotland, Morocco and Australia. He travels for work, presenting at conferences and universities, and the presentations are included in his body of work for his job as a professor. After giving the presentations, he takes time to explore, meet people and enjoy new places. I’m not much of a world traveler, so I’m glad he has these opportunities. When I had cancer, Jeff gave up his travel for a year to help me and be with me. He missed getting credit on his vitae for the work he would have done. He spent less time doing many things that he enjoys and would have done if I’d been healthy in 2016. It made me sad that I made him alter his life so much. I felt guilty.
I know that Jeff has no regrets; it’s silly to think that. I’d do the same for him, except I’d be giving up going to craft shows, shopping for clothes, and lunch with friends rather than flying to exotic lands. I felt the same guilt about whatever nice things my sons did for me, like grocery shopping, helping with meals, or being my chauffeur. I loved the meals friends dropped off, yet I felt badly that they went through trouble for me. You get the picture: I’m a person who can carry a lot of guilt.
It’s hard to accept help, to admit that you need it, to realize you can’t do things yourself. Pride gets in the way, along with embarrassment. It’s important to push past the negative feelings and feel lots of love and gratitude. Likely, you’ve helped other people and will again in the future. It’s just your turn.
If you have cancer or another serious illness and are in need in of help, someone will step up and give you a hand. Sometimes, family and friends know you can’t cope alone, and they’re ready on day 1 to support you. Other times, people don’t know your needs. You have to work up the courage to ask for help. It’s okay to ask. There’s no shame in needing help, and, if you’re a more self-assured person than me, no guilt.
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