Thursday, October 11, 2012

R.I.P. Robert

     For those of you who don't already know, Robert Reese, chief meteorologist for WCIA TV died Tuesday night at a Chicago hospital.  He had been battling pneumonia and cancer.  I have to say that I am more than a little freaked out from the news.  Now, Robert and I were not fast friends.  We only saw each other occasionally at the Oncology Department at Christie Clinic.  We got drafted into a club no one wants to be in.  I admired his grace and courage as he fought his fight.  He always had a smile for you and waited his turn along with the rest of us.  Hanging out in the waiting area could be quite stressful.  We tried to keep it light, discussing mundane things like weather and current events.  As you can imagine, weather discussions with a meteorologist can be quite fun.  I  think it would have been easy for him to use his celebrity status to get in and out faster but he didn't.  He knew all too well that cancer didn't care about his "status". 
     I think I am freaked out because we are close in age and the last time I saw him, he looked good and said he was feeling great.  It just goes to show that you can look good on the outside while your insides are betraying you.  I am fortunate to have recently celebrated my 3rd cancerversary.  I don't spend much time thinking about cancer until it sneaks up on me and knocks me up side the head with news such as this.  It scares me to think it could happen to me as well.  That coupled with the research that my type of cancer is aggressive and does not have the best survival rate sends me into a tail spin.  HER2-positive breast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer.  They're also less responsive to hormone treatment.  Now, I have always known these facts but have chosen not to dwell on them.  That is until I am forced to face them. 
     I can't help but wonder why some of us continue to survive while others don't.  Survivor's guilt rears its ugly head.  In cases of chronic illness, this guilt can occur after the death of a peer who faced a similar diagnosis.  By definition, there is an implied comparison with people who have endured similar ordeals.  Survivor guilt can help to find meaning and make sense out of the experience.  It can help to cope with the helplessness and powerlessness of being in a life-threatening situation without the ability to save yourself or others.  It can co-exist with other responses, such as relief and gratitude, even being prompted by them. Logic has little or no impact on guilt and when I find myself comparing my situation to others, I have to remind myself that every person's cancer is different and that I am winning this battle.