Today, in a conversation with friends, I referred to myself as a "worthless piece of shit."
Now intellectually I know that's not a true representation of the value my life is bringing to the world and my friends quickly jumped in to lecture me on why that description was inaccurate but it highlighted for me a deep rooted underlying belief that being sick over such a long period of time has made me feel 'less than' my peers.
I have managed to work full-time for a total of 6 months since my cancer diagnosis 8 years ago. SIX MONTHS! Yes, I have juggled a few part-time positions over the years, but still struggled. I never got back to normal after treatment finished and as time went on, more and more cracks appeared. "You have chemo-induced chronic fatigue" turned into "You have developed an auto-immune condition and you will be sick for the rest of your life."
This whole cancer/chronic illness rollercoaster has been steeped full of feelings of guilt. No-one ever talks about it. But I feel terrible that I got sick. I'm not oblivious to all that my family had to give up to help me during that time and beyond. And I'm not just talking about my husband and kids, but also my Mum, my Dad, my sister and brother, my in-laws, my friends. This illness has taken their time, and their money. People had to be with me to help with kids, they had to drop everything so they could cook meals, drive me to appointments, pay for extras we couldn't afford, travel across the world to be there for me.
I had to watch all of it.
And it broke my heart.
Sometimes I think I've put the burden down, but then, like today, it rears it's ugly head again and I realise I still carry bucketloads of guilt with me. And I suspect I always will. The cancer is gone, but I am not 'better' and I am never going to be 'normal'. Like a lot of people post treatment, I'm still coming to grips with my life after cancer and the long-term effects of treatment.
Some of those effects haven't happened to my physical body, some of the effects are still rippling through my relationships, my experiences and my bank account.
I feel like this is where I am meant to say something to make it all ok, something inspirational and full of sparkly positive vibes. But I don't want to. I just want to acknowledge that these feelings are there.
Just incase someone else out there is feeling them too.