Tag Archives: Guilt

Friendship on our Level

A friend told me something powerful today.

That if I wasn’t here, she wouldn’t still be here.

Let that sink in for a moment…

That if I wasn’t here, she wouldn’t still be here.

That if I wasn’t here, she wouldn’t still be here.

It took me aback for a minute. I took it like, if I wasn’t here, neither would she be, as in like…life. It could go so many ways, suicide? Running away? Wither up and dying from my lack of horrid jokes and hummus desk snacks?

She said it seriously, with tears in her eyes. I was speechless for a moment. That is quite a powerful message to hand someone…without an explanation. But that significant message was oh-so precious. It must be handled carefully, like a delicate orchid and treasured for the meaning behind it. It is not something you can laugh off or pish posh.

If you weren’t here, I wouldn’t be here. Think about it.

Looking back on it now, I believe she was speaking of work, like she would have quit her job by now. But either way, it is quite the statement.

She values our friendship so much that my simply being here, alters her life, her path, her choices. That my dear folks, is friendship at its most deepest and cherished level. We are not simply co-workers that sit beside each other and fill our days with idle chitchat. I care about her life, I feel like I know her daughters and mother on a deeper level than I actually do. I feel her pain and I share her shining moments. We get a kick out of word play and grammar puns, she is my go-to gal for English questions, like, “do you ‘bare’ with me or ‘bear’ with me? Either way sounds not too fun!” She cares about others, to the point that she puts herself out. She will stay late after her shift to finish your conversation and she slips you a homemade concoction of essential oils when you have the sniffles. She is older than me by a generation I would say. One of her daughters is my age and yet, I don’t feel “mothered” or that generational gap that I feel with other older people…she is just…her. Beautiful in both mind and spirit. She often gives me pause. She will say something or forward me something to read and I have to actually think about it before I respond. She understands life differently than most. She understands life on a different level than most. She gets what is hidden in-between the lines and words and interprets them for me. She stops and looks at sunsets and frost patterns on  windows. She sees the beauty that most of us just walk by without notice. She literally stops to smell the roses. She’s like a Buddhist monk hidden in a little lady’s body who wears 2 coats in the winter for quite logical reasons.

Cancer has taken so much from her and although we have cancer in common, both being caregivers and supporters, our journeys have taken very different paths. Our roads with grief, guilt, stress and eventually healing has been rocky and bumpy and filled with potholes. But we share it together, over cold leftover toast and a cuppa tea.

She has seen some dark places but she has also lived in the light. She married her very best friend only for him to be taken away by cancer at a young age. You can tell his presence is missed daily and also deeply. She lights up when she tells stories about him. There is a twinkle in her eye that is rarely there…it is great to see. And yet, the pain is evident. She sometimes reminds me a granite boulder. Strong and powerful, hard to break and why would you want too, as the colour and texture is breathtaking. And yet, there is a crack. A single, small, chip in her granite. The water gets in, year after year, the fall of winter and the rise of summer brings this crack to the surface, getting bigger, more significant and stands out. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see a chip in a perfect piece of granite and not be able to do anything about it. No amount of duct tape, hugs, tea or alcohol (my go-to fixer uppers) will fix this crack. It will always be there. That is what cancer does. Cracks a perfect life, splits a happy marriage and family, chips a woman until she is on her knees baring the weight of all these broken pieces on her back. This is not weight that anyone else can carry. I hope with time and support and love, she will be able to stand tall again. Some days are worse than others, for both of us. But I think, together, we got this…

We may differ in so many ways, her husband died, my son survived. She struggles with loss and loneliness, I struggle with clinginess and neediness, I love pretzels , she threatens my life if I mention them and she is Scottish where I am English! It is amazing we can even sit together! And yet, as shitty as cancer is, I feel like this friendship is something amazing that came out of it.

And on some levels, if she were no longer here, a very big, granite sized piece of me would be gone too…

And please remember, no matter how alone you are feeling, you are never, ever, ever alone. Please reach out…


May all their Stars Shine Bright

Emily Hammond with her five-year-old son Griffin at their home in Niagara Falls on Dec. 11, 2015. They have a special Christmas ornament they put on their tree every year as a reminder of all the children dealing with cancer. Mike DiBattista/Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network
The tiny silver star has a well-deserved place among the very tip top branches of my Christmas tree. The star has a hole in the middle with a crystal hanging inside. This little star means so much to me.
In Dec of 2011, my 22 month old son Griffin was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive type of muscle Cancer that grew in his eye orbit. That holiday season was the scariest and most heart wrenching Christmas my little family had ever been through. We didn’t know if Griffin was going to make it and my Husband & I didn’t know if this would be his last Christmas…
After 48 weeks of chemo, 25 radiation treatments directly to his face, and countless pokes, scans and appointments, December of 2012 rolled around and that year, Griffin was Cancer Free!!! You would think I would have been so happy, unfortunately I was not. My heart and soul were hurt from all the cancer kids we had lost that past year as well as all the kids still fighting. I could not let myself feel happy while others were still suffering. Some mothers did not have their babies that Christmas, how guilty and horrid was I to enjoy mine?
I struggled with PTSD, survivor’s guilt and depression until I found this cheap little tin star at our pharmacy while I was getting meds for my son. It sparkled at me, it reminded me of the sparkle in the eye of one particular child we had lost recently. I clung to that ornament all the way home, crying tears of sadness but also relief. I realized that I could HONOUR those children with a place on my tree. I can remember them, laugh at their memories and remember their sparkle. These families would not want me to suffer; they would not want me to be consumed with guilt over something neither of us can help!
 Emily Hammond with her five-year-old son Griffin at their home in Niagara Falls on Dec. 11, 2015. They have a special Christmas ornament they put on their tree every year as a reminder of all the children dealing with cancer. Mike DiBattista/Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network
So Griffin is five now, perfectly healthy and happy. And so am I. Each year, I hang that amazing little star near the tip of my tree, the little crystal catching all the light and winking at me. These Cancer Kids are not forgotten, but they are no longer painful. I will always remember those children with this little silver star. I will always remember their bravery, courage and heart.
May all their stars shine bright.
This story was published in the local Newspaper:
Emily Hammond with her five-year-old son Griffin at their home in Niagara Falls on Dec. 11, 2015. They have a special Christmas ornament they put on their tree every year as a reminder of all the children dealing with cancer. Mike DiBattista/Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network

Feeling Guilty

All cancer survivors! Walking together, surviving together!
All cancer survivors! Walking together, surviving together!

Have you ever felt guilty about something? Maybe you stepped on a bug on the sidewalk? Elbowed your kid in the head by mistake? Ran over a squirrel in your car? I think we have all done these things, felt guilty about it for a moment and moved on. I once was shopping in Zellars (The Canadian version of Kmart) with my Mom, and I was young enough not to be able to see over the counter, so I was five maybe? I was REALLY excited over this new Barbie my Mum let me pick out. I clutched her in my arms throughout the entire store, I looked into her eyes and day dreamed of the dressing changes we would be doing and plastic car rides we would be going on. My Mum bustled me along, as she grabbed her bags to leave. Out in the parking lot she realized I was still clutching the dang Barbie and had not paid for it. I remember her DRAGGING me back into the store like some common criminal. I was embarrassed, but more than anything, I felt GUILTY. Like a deep ache of guilt, like would be Mum ever forgive me? Could I ever forgive myself? Will I still get into College?

Fast forward 20 years and here I sit, snuggling with my beautiful healthy five year old boy that happens to be a cancer survivor. Yes, we have a few side effects and setbacks due to Cancer, but in the grand scheme of things, we had a very lucky journey. As I sit here, running my hands through his hair that grew back a much darker colour, I cannot help but to think of the friends of ours that are still battling the disease. Why is my child ok but theirs has relapsed? Why did they go through 12 ports and ours was perfectly fine? Why is my child alive while theirs is dead? The guilt swallows me up some days. Do I deserve to have a healthy child when some great Mums out there are missing theirs? I can’t wrap my head around it. Logically, I know it’s silly, I should be shouting from the roof tops and dancing a jig at our luck. But how can I be celebrating when other kids are dying? When other kids are still fighting? Apparently it’s called Survivors guilt which is a part of my PTSD. That’s great that there is a nice little name for it…but how do I fix it?

The long and the short of it? I DID make it in to college, LOL the Barbie trauma is long behind me. But the Survivors Guilt? I find myself inserting myself into my Cancer Community, doing things like running a Parent’s Support group, organizing a Super Hero sewing bee so every sick kid gets a Courage Cape and lots of fundraising events through the year. Events like Relay for Life is a great day where Cancer Families and their supporters plus great members of the community get together to walk together and raise money. Its a way of connecting. Look up your local Cancer Society or Ronald McDonald House as they always never volunteers I feel like instead of filling my heart with guilt and dread, I actively fill my heart with love from these other Cancer families. Yes, by putting myself out there, I could get hurt again as our friends may relapse but the love far outweighs any of the bad.

The guilt? I will never be able to fix it but I CAN put it in a figurative little box, with a pretty little bow. I know it’s always there, tugging at my heartstrings but I don’t have to open it all the time. I keep it close to my heart, I think about those kids all the time but I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to take over my whole day, I don’t let the guilt consume me anymore. I’m allowed to laugh and enjoy my cancer-free child. We all know life is just too precious and too short to be worried about something I cannot change.

Hug your babies tight tonight…and remember, you are not alone.