I was thinking about my last post and my guilt in regards to having been a smoker. I’ve found in my connections with other cancer survivors that many of us feel guilt. Some because they didn’t eat enough vegetables or didn’t exercise enough or because they weighed too much. They didn’t eat organic food, they didn’t drink bottled water. We feel we were somehow responsible.
We look for the reason why, what did we do wrong?
The number one cause of lung cancer is smoking, but in one study I read that only about 10% of smokers go on to develop lung cancer, 90% don’t. Not fair to 10% of the of smokers. Kids get cancer, athletes get cancer. Bad things happen to good people. I’m a nurse, I see bad things happen to good people all the time. And we all fail in some area. Some take great care of their bodies, but poor care of their relationships. Who is to say which is better in the long run. I never asked “why me”, but I did wonder sometimes about others who abused their bodies AND were just plain mean into old age. Why did they not get cancer?
In the end, guilt serves no purpose except to motivate, I guess. Guilt in part motivated me to quit smoking. It motivated me to help raise the tobacco tax to maybe help some kids avoid the addiction. Guilt motivates others to eat better, take better care of themselves. Maybe my survivor guilt helps motivate me to remain in the cancer community and to try to help others struggling with the diagnosis.
So maybe guilt serves some good purposes, but what we really need is forgiveness. We need to forgive ourselves and move on.