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Guilty for Simply Being Alive

by Arely AcunaSurvivor, NeuroblastomaMay 26, 2021View more posts from Arely Acuna

As a child I didn’t really understand much of what was going on and what “Having Cancer” really meant. My family did most of the fighting and advocating for me and what I did understand I had been doing it for so long that it was just normal to me. Cancer has been a part of my entire life and it has taught me to endure so much. It has taught me how to have courage and strength in adversity.

I can take all the adversity and all the pain you want to throw at me but to see the people I love suffering that is when I am weak and in February of 2016 my best friend since childhood was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer…

Out of all the things I have faced because of cancer this has been the hardest. For me cancer has always been a very lonely journey and I wanted to be there for her like I wished a friend could’ve been there for me and how she had been there since we were seven years old. Within the first couple months of her diagnosis, I slept in the hospital many nights, I was with her during her first chemo and many after, I went to many appointments with her, I tried to help in every way I could. I sat with her in the same lobbies I sat in for my own appointments while I held back my tears. I wanted to show her that if I could do it, she could absolutely do it as well.

I was there for her to the point that being around her while she was doing chemo made me physically sick. I got so sick from just the exposure to the chemo and radiation that I was no longer able to be there for any appointments, chemo sessions or hospital stays. I wanted to be strong for her and I wanted to give her courage and it broke my heart to not be there physically especially when she started to deteriorate.

On December 18, 2018, cancer gave me the biggest hit I had ever experienced… cancer took my best friend from me… forever. I wasn’t able to be by her side and say goodbye to her, I couldn’t tell her I loved her one last time while she could still hear me. I did not even have the courage to attend her burial. It took me a year to be able to visit her grave.

To this day I feel guilty for the fact that I am still here, and she is not. I feel guilty that I am able to receive the care at the hospital that I do, and she wasn’t. I feel guilty for still being able to breath. I feel guilty for something that I had no control over, and I know I had no control, but I can’t get rid of these feelings. Does that feeling ever go away or is it like a death and it’s just something that I will learn to deal with overtime?

Cancer has taught me how to tolerate unbearable pain, but never did I think that simply surviving would be this hard… that I would feel so much pain and so guilty for simply being alive.

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